Queen's University in Belfast has been awarded £5m to carry out research over the next five years aimed at improving the health of the UK population.

It will investigate key public health issues such as obesity, diet and smoking.

A new Northern Ireland Centre of Excellence for Public Health Research is being established at Queen's University in partnership with the Institute of Public Health in Ireland.

The centre is one of five being established across the UK and is part of a £20m investment programme under the umbrella of the UK Clinical Research Collaboration.

Centres are also being established at the University of Cambridge as well as at Cardiff, Newcastle and Nottingham Universities.

Professor Ken Brown, Queen's Acting Vice-Chancellor, said the centre has the potential to make a real difference.

'On our doorstep in Northern Ireland we have life expectancy rates which are amongst the worst in the UK. This funding allows Queen's researchers and our partners to discover how we can use our stable population, and distinctive approach to integrated health and social services, to change the face of public health.'

The new centre will also research the economic, social and biological factors which cause chronic disease - looking at the main causes of inequalities in health experiences, benefiting the wider UK population, he said.