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Sam Norton awarded MQ fellowship

Dr Sam Norton has been awarded an MQ fellowship to develop an app aimed at improving mental and physical health support for people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Dr Norton is a lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) and the Department of Rheumatology at King’s College London. He has a long-standing interest in mental health and rheumatology, with a particular interest in RA and quality of life.

Half a million people in the UK live with RA, a condition that causes joint inflammation, pain, stiffness and fatigue. Around a third of these people also experience a mental health condition.

Current drug treatments for RA can be helpful, but around 40 per cent of people experience ongoing pain, fatigue and mental health problems even when the drug treatments have reduced inflammation. A personalised treatment approach that accurately targets both physical and mental health symptoms could be transformative.

Dr Norton is creating an app to help healthcare professionals track symptoms and identify people at risk of ongoing problems. This will help healthcare professionals and people with RA select the most effective treatments and make the most of the time available in appointments.

The research project, which is jointly funded with Arthritis Research UK, will follow a three-part process:

  • A literature review and analysis of historical data to understand how the number of people with RA and mental health problems has changed over time.
  • Development of a statistical model using data from large observational studies of people starting drug treatment to identify the people most likely to experience ongoing issues.
  • Development of an app to help healthcare staff track their patients symptoms so they can consider a wider range of related issues – including mental health problems – when treating patients who have arthritis.

MQ is the first major mental health research charity. This is the fourth year of the MQ’s annual Fellows Award programme, which supports the next generation of research leaders across scientific disciplines and countries. Each of the four 2016 Fellows will receive £225,000 of funding for their three-year projects.