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Physios and philosophers receive £1 million research grant

20 February 2015 - 3:16pm

Two physiotherapists are to play their part in a €1.3 (about £1 million) study that will explore what leads to improvements in people’s health and wellbeing.

Causehealth physio philosophy

Physiotherapists Matthew Low and Roger Kerry will help run a four-year study of complex conditions

They are members of an international research team, CauseHealth, which was awarded the £1 million grant by the Research Council of Norway.

It will fund a four-year study that could pave the way for a radically new way of understanding health and wellbeing.

The physios in the 27-strong team, which includes health scientists and philosophers, are Roger Kerry and Matthew Low. They are an associate professor of physiotherapy education at the University of Nottingham and a spinal extended-scope practitioner at the Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch NHS trust.

Professor Kerry will be lead co-investigator on the project, which begins work in the spring. His publications formed the basis of the team’s grant application, and his PhD was supported by a CSP educational award.

He told Frontline: ‘This project is the largest of its kind in both healthcare and philosophy and demonstrates a groundbreaking collaboration between the sciences and humanities.

‘It will focus on the care of people with complex, life-long conditions and seek to understand what causes these people to improve their health and wellbeing.’

Medically unexplained symptoms

The project was inspired by complex conditions with medically unexplained symptoms, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome and low back pain.

Professor Kerry said the data unearthed by randomised controlled trials and large-scale population studies might not be applicable to individuals with complex conditions.

This is because these types of condition do not appear to have a common set of causes, and each patient presents with a unique combination of symptoms and a unique expression of the condition.

‘Randomised controlled trials and systematic reviews establish causation in a specific way. But there is a big difference between what we mean by causation in research and what we mean by causation in clinical practice,’ he said.

According to Professor Kerry, the project could lead to research methods that focus more on the complexity of real life clinical decision-making ‘rather than establishing causal claims in a trial’.

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