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Living Well

Our work addresses complex challenges from preventing and curing physical diseases such as prostate cancer and diabetes to empowering people to live well into later life, supporting emotional and mental wellbeing and suicide prevention. Through our research, we help people cope with grief, improve their relationships and health at work, embrace spirituality for healing and support the people facing the most significant adversity across the globe.

Managing our ageing

The Open University’s ‘Take Five to Age Well’ is a project that seeks to support individuals so they can live longer and healthier lives.

A row of coloured balloons with faces drawn on them

Revolutionising patient pain

Sometimes called the fifth vital sign, pain level is universal data for medical treatment. It acts as an indicator of concern, a factor towards Quality of Life, and as a means for optimising patient care. But getting regular pain data into medical records is difficult.

Person holding a Prostate Specific Antigen rapid test cassette showing a positive result

Overcoming drug resistance to prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, with one in eight receiving the diagnosis in their lifetime. Fortunately, a combination of hormonal treatments and chemotherapy can successfully manage the condition and the five-year survival rate is almost 100% for early-stage patients. However, late-stage diagnoses are far harder to treat. Around half of prostate cancer sufferers will develop metastases, meaning that tumours spread throughout the body and begin affecting other organs. Repeated treatments can help control tumour growth but currently there is no cure and existing medications become less effective over time. For oncology specialists, one of the biggest challenges is overcoming the drug resistance which emerges as these aggressive tumours are repeatedly exposed to the same treatments.

A child lying on a street in Dkaha, Bangladesh, with people walking by

Saving children from a life on the streets

According to United Nations figures, more than 150 million children are spending their young lives on the streets: lost to a cycle of poverty, violence, abuse, exploitation — and poor mental health. The psychological damage to children makes it far harder for them to break the cycle and re-join wider society. Work led by Dr Sharif Haider aims to bring about real, lasting change on the streets of Dhaka in Bangladesh.

An assortment of multi-coloured antibiotics

Tackling antibiotic resistance

Antibiotic resistance is a major threat to the future development of humanity. Their inappropriate use has led to an alarming rise in treatment-resistant infections and in 2019 an estimated 1.27 million people died of formerly-preventable diseases. However, despite global acknowledgement of this crisis, only two new classes of antibiotics have been discovered within the last 50 years, not nearly enough to keep pace with the growing trend of resistance. The world is reaching a tipping point and urgently needs to invest in new antibiotic treatments to ensure simple infections remain treatable.

A swarm of mosquitoes with bushes in the background

Tackling malaria

Almost every minute a child dies of malaria. This disease claimed 619,000 lives in 2021, 77% of which were children under five. Caused by a parasite, malaria is spread through infected mosquito bites and quickly becomes fatal without appropriate medical intervention. The African continent is most heavily-affected and preventative measures (such as insecticide-treated nets around sleeping areas) form a large part of the anti-malarial strategy in these regions. Strong global investment has reduced the mortality rate by almost half over the last 20 years, with over 2.2 billion nets distributed across sub-Saharan Africa since 2004. But despite these measures, this devastating disease continues to take a heavy toll on countries across the continent, with significant health and economic consequences trapping many families in a cycle of poverty and illness.

A foodbank, with bags of fruit and vegetables on a table

Boosting community-driven alternatives to the global agri-food industry

Sustainable food systems — providing affordable access to healthy, affordable foods with low carbon impact — should be extended from the margins to the mainstream, argues Dr Les Levidow, Senior Research Fellow, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. He believes that people-centred, community-driven policies are needed from local authorities to facilitate such systems. Carried out with Open University colleagues, a pilot study is leading to insights into what kinds of support measures would be most helpful and how to obtain them.

Coins spread across a table and stacked in piles

Have you had your Financial Five a Day?

Challenges around financial literacy, financial competency and financial confidence are unfortunately a well-established feature of current UK society. With the Financial Conduct Authority finding that half the population has low confidence in making decisions to do with money, and that groups with the least financial competencies include those on lower incomes, young people, women, and minorities.

A field of golden-coloured wheat

How to deliver a better world of food and farming for all

The world has become dependent on a food industry machine that is hardwired for intensive farming and increasing production to feed the world’s growing population. But this giant global system cannot meet the essential need for food and nutrition security and environmental sustainability. How can such a deep-rooted dependency on intensive production be overturned without damaging food supplies? Professor Shonil Bhagwat is leading a new project to deliver practical pathways to a better, more human future for food and farming.

A romantic, elderly couple standing on a pier

Making sure intimacy stays part of ageing well

As people grow older, moments of intimacy, of emotional and physical affection, are just as important as ever - but they can also be more fleeting and unreliable: partners die, couples separate and friendships fall away. Why isn’t there more personal support to help older people maintain those moments of intimacy which are so important to health and wellbeing? A group of colleagues at The Open University is leading a project that aims to come up with practical ways forward.

A light-up red heart and blue NHS sign

Modelling tools for the survival of the NHS

The NHS is under the greatest strain of its 75-year history. Increased demand in the wake of the COVID pandemic, hitting at a time of record staff shortages and high costs, is threatening this precious national asset and urgent intervention is needed to support healthcare staff. If the NHS is to survive, it needs to increase its resilience with the resources it already has. However, with an organisation so large the scale of this challenge is immense.