Multimorbidity: the launch of a major international policy project

On 19 April 2018, the Academy of Medical Sciences published its first international policy report evaluating the growing issue of multimorbidity as a global health challenge.

The project was led by an expert working group, chaired by Professor Stephen MacMahon FMedSci, made up of a broad range of experts including representatives from India, China, and South Africa. The project was informed by a call for written evidence, oral evidence sessions, and two workshops funded by the Academy’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) designed to explore the issue of multimorbidity in South Africa and across the BRICS countries.

The final report summarises the available evidence on multimorbidity and highlights key evidence gaps. In doing so, the report calls for a standardised definition and reporting system for multimorbidity, and recommends a series of research priorities to better understand:

  • The trends and patterns of multimorbidity across the globe.
  • The burden caused by common clusters of conditions.
  • The determinants of the most common clusters of conditions.
  • How best to prevent the development of multimorbidity.
  • How to maximise benefits and limit risks of treatment for patients with multimorbidity.
  • How to organise healthcare systems to better manage patients with multimorbidity.

The launch of the report was an unprecedented success, receiving the most media coverage an Academy project has ever reached. It started with a very successful and well-attended news briefing at the Science Media Centre. The panel was led by Professor Stephen MacMahon FMedSci, Chair of the report, joined by Professor Melanie Davies CBE FMedSci, Dr Lynne Corner and Professor Martin Prince. Every journalist in attendance wrote-up the story, resulting in coverage in all major national newspapers, including the front page, a double page spread and a comment piece from the Chair in the Daily Express, an extensive broadcast package on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme and a live interview with the Chair on BBC Breakfast news – both of which made a splash across regional BBC radio and television.

Overall the reach of the broadcast coverage has been estimated at around 30 million people, with print and online at around 17 million readers – including specialist, trade and consumer press as well as the national news. We are still seeing coverage coming through and are thrilled that the report has reached so many people.

Social media was also a huge hit, with at least 34,000 users reached directly through the Academy’s account in the first 24 hours. On Twitter, the report was publicly welcomed by Natalie Bennett MP, Liz Kendall MP, AMRC, ARUK, the British Geriatric Society, Guys & St Thomas, MQ, National Voices, NICE, and many others. The Guardian tweeted about the report to an audience of 7 million followers. The full report has now been downloaded more than 14,000 times from our website.

After the launch, the Academy organised a two-day workshop together with the Medical Research Council (MRC, now part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)), the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), and Wellcome. Held on 20 and 21 June 2018, this workshop was developed to bring together researchers and research funders, and provided a platform from which to better understand how to enable research to tackle multimorbidity in both the UK and in low- and middle-income countries. The workshop was well attended by research funders, who expressed a clear appetite to help support multimorbidity-specific research in a collaborative manner going forward. Notably, the outcomes of the workshop have been fed into the development of a joint funding call by the MRC and NIHR which will be announced in July 2018 and will aim to help address multimorbidity in the UK context.


More information about this project and the final report can be found on our website. The slides from the June workshop are also available online, and a summary report will be published in due course.

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