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Prof Helen Roberts


Professor of Medicine for Older People

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Professor Helen Roberts trained as a geriatrician and leads Academic Geriatric Medicine at the University of Southampton. Her research focus is nutrition and physical activity in older people, frailty, sarcopenia and Parkinson’s. 

Professor Roberts leads the NIHR Applied Research Collaborations (ARCs) national priority programme in Healthy Ageing, Dementia and Frailty which is conducting multi-regional projects evaluating the implementation of research innovations into real world health and care services. She is Chair of the UK Association of Academic Geriatric Medicine.

Landmark publications:

  1. Roberts, H. C., Denison, H. J., Martin, H. J., Patel, H. P., Syddall, H., Cooper, C., and Sayer, A. A. A review of the measurement of grip strength in clinical and epidemiological studies: towards a standardised approach. Age and Ageing 2011; 40, 423-429.

  2. Gilbert T, Neuburger J, Kraindler J, Keeble E, Smith P, Ariti C, Arora S, Street A, Parker S, Roberts HC, Bardsley M, Conroy S. The development and validation of a frailty risk score focusing on older people in acute care settings using electronic hospital records. Lancet 2018; May 5;391(10132):1775-1782.

  3. Roberts HC, Lim SER, Cox NJ and Ibrahim K. The challenge of managing undernutrition in older people with frailty. Nutrients 2019, 11 (4), 808

  4. Lim S, Ibrahim K, Dodds R, Purkis A, Strike G, Baxter M, Rogers A, Sayer AA, Roberts HC. Physical activity among hospitalised older people: The feasibility and acceptability of a volunteer-led mobility intervention. Age Ageing. 2020; 49(2): 283-291

  5. Cox NJ, Morrison L, Ibrahim K, Robinson SM, Sayer AA, Roberts HC. New horizons in appetite and anorexia of ageing. Age Ageing 2020; 49(4): 526-534

Major grants:

Current awards:

  • NIHR ARC Wessex. 2019-2024. £9 million.

  • EU Joint Programme – Neurodegenerative disease research. Optimization of community resources and systems of support to enhance the process of living with Parkinson´s Disease: a multisectoral intervention. 2019-2022. 214,542 Euro UK (975,169 Euro all partners).

  • UK NRP Collaborative award. Establishing a collaboration to enable effective nutritional targeting of age-related immune decline and intestinal microbial dysbiosis. 2019-2022. £600,000

  • NIHR Applied Research Collaborations (ARC) National Priorities Programme for Healthy Ageing, Dementia and Frailty. 2021-2023. £1,875,000.

  • NIHR Building dementia research capacity: support for ARC dementia researcher cohort. 2022-24. £186,570

Impact examples:

International use of Southampton protocol for grip strength measurement (Roberts et al Age Ageing 2011) with 2306 cites (18thNovember 2022). Method for grip strength measurement proposed by the European Working Group on Sarcopenia in Older People Guidelines 2015 and 2018.

My research into the feasibility of volunteers helping older hospital in-patients at mealtimes led to the implementation of the hospital mealtime volunteer programme at UHS and other hospitals.

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