Time to come home for new Teesside Professor
An expert on the human body clock and its impact on health has returned to his roots to take up a new professorial position at Teesside University.
Professor Greg Atkinson, Health and Social Care Institute
Professor Greg Atkinson, originally from Middlesbrough, has been appointed to the Health and Social Care Institute at Teesside where he will continue with his research on the effects of working shifts on the health of employees.
Around 20% of the workforce undertakes shift work which is linked to significant health problems such as an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and some cancers, including colorectal cancer and breast cancer in women.
'People who work shifts are working against their body clock. The research shows they also struggle to be physically active and often have a poor diet as well as eating at unusual times. With so many people involved in working shifts it is a considerable public health issue which needs research and action.'
The Health and Social Care Institute at Teesside University is a focal point for research on health, social care, public health and rehabilitation. Greg explains: 'My research fits well into the Institute as there are public health and intervention aspects to it. I have previously used motivational interviewing techniques to identify the lifestyle improvement priorities of a shift worker and then devise a programme for them to improve their health. I have found in a previous project funded by the National Prevention Research Initiative that a lifestyle intervention resulted in a reduction in shift workers body mass index (BMI) by 0.5 kg per metre squared in only three months - a significant reduction.'
A keen cyclist himself, Greg is also well known for his research into the body clock and exercise demonstrating that the best time of day to exercise is early evening. He also advises athletes on how to cope with the effects of jet-lag after they fly long-haul to tournaments and competitions and has published in the Lancet on this topic. He has recently undertaken a study to see if bright light can help world-class footballers cope with jet-lag.
He has a long-term interest in the links between the body clock and health, including researching why sudden cardiac events are generally more common in the morning. He has recently studied the sleep disturbances of people with spinal cord injuries and found that these people have a complete absence of the normal evening rise in melatonin, a hormone that is important to the body clock. This study is about to be published in the highly-cited Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB).
Professor Atkinson, 45, a former Whinney Banks and Stainsby School pupil, started his working life as an apprentice at ICI Billingham as an instrument technician but was made redundant in 1986. He enrolled in further education at Longlands College and then studied sports science at Liverpool John Moores University where he remained to do his PhD and as a member of staff.
Greg says, 'It’s good to come home and be back on Teesside with my family and to be able to work on my research at Teesside.'
Professor Janet Shucksmith, Director of the Health and Social Care Institute, adds: 'Professor Atkinson’s research gels with our goal of undertaking work which is capable of making practical differences in the field of health and social care. The work we do usually arises from practice issues in the field and Greg’s research certainly looks set to give rise to some effective solutions to pressing problems.'
18 April 2012
In the News
Health prof is back home
Evening Gazette, 28/04/2012, p.11
An expert on the human body clock has returned to his roots to take up a position at Teesside University. Professor Greg Atkinson, 45, originally from Middlesbrough, has been appointed as a professor in the Health and Social Care Institute where he will continue research on the health effects of working shifts.