Researchers and local communities to tackle UK health inequalities

Group of retired seniors attending class in community centre with teacher

A new wave of research projects has been announced to investigate the role of community assets such as parks and galleries in improving health outcomes.

The projects are funded as part of the second phase of the £26 million, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Mobilising Community Assets to Tackle Health Inequalities investment.

This multi-year research programme is funded primarily by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and aims to use existing local resources to create a fairer and healthier society.

Building on previous success

The first phase of the programme was announced earlier this year and funded projects which looked at how to scale up small, local approaches to tackle health inequalities.

This second phase is a consortia-building phase, which will fund 16 projects up to £250,000 each to facilitate cross-partner collaboration, incorporating relevant non-academic partners, including community groups and health system organisations.

These consortia will conduct new research and develop community asset hubs with the aim of coordinating large-scale projects for their communities as part of the final phase of the programme to be launched in 2023.

Unlocking local potential

The research conducted as part of this phase of the programme will cover diverse topics such as:

  • the potential of arts venues as referral routes for families with young children in Dundee who are struggling with their wellbeing
  • how charities, community groups and other organisations can come together to improve end-of-life care and bereavement support for poorer communities in Weston-super-Mare
  • how community assets such as health services in Northumbria can better share data to more effectively support people who experience homelessness

Researchers will work closely with a range of community partners, some of whom are part of project leadership teams, to explore these topics to ensure people’s lived experiences are at the heart of the programme.

Looking to the future

Professor Helen Chatterjee, AHRC’s Health Inequalities Programme Director, says:

This programme is central to AHRC’s strategic vision and our longstanding commitment to taking an arts and humanities approach to creating a fairer and more equitable society.

We must think carefully about how we utilise shared infrastructure and spaces to ensure that they are serving the entire community and playing their role in addressing inequality.

It is exciting to consider how bringing together and rethinking the use of cultural assets in these regions might change health outcomes for their communities.

Further information

Full list of successful funded projects

The Living Roots Project: building a community asset and research consortium in Ealing, West London to address health equity

Dr Megan Schmidt-Sane, Institute of Development Studies

The Living Roots Project involves a collaboration of research, youth services, public health, NHS, and voluntary and community service partners, working to improve health equity in Ealing.

This collaborative project seeks to identify key health equity issues in the borough and identify collaborative models to improve health equity in the long-term.

INtersectional Network Of community and stakeholder Voices, And research to Tackle (in)Equities (INNOVATE) in mental health and wellbeing

Professor Anuj Kapilashrami, University of Essex

This project will establish an interdisciplinary multi-stakeholder consortium to identify new ways to consider health inequalities in mental health, offering new insights, practical tools and approaches to build capabilities necessary for tackling these.

The consortium’s will be located in Mid and South Essex, a region with some of the most deprived areas and highest burden of mental health problems in England.

Common Health Catalyst: developing a community research consortium to address health disparities

Professor Michael Roy, Glasgow Caledonian University

This project will undertake the necessary preparatory work to build a community research consortium focused on Lanarkshire, Scotland, which is among places with the poorest health, and widest health inequalities, in western Europe.

The project brings together an exciting team drawn from academia, the third sector and around Lanarkshire’s public sector to confront the drivers of poor health.

Art at the Start: a research consortium exploring art-based intervention to support perinatal and infant mental health

Dr Josephine Ross, University of Dundee

‘Art at the Start’ will form a research consortium exploring how art-based approaches can be embedded within arts venues as a referral route for perinatal infant mental health provision, ensuring early and equal access to the health benefits of arts.

Organisations of Hope: building a creative consortium for health equity in Greater Manchester

Dr Simon Parry, The University of Manchester

This project explores how creativity, culture and heritage address inequities in Greater Manchester, with an initial focus on mental health and dementia.

It will build a creative health coalition in Greater Manchester from a diverse group of organisations to understand how existing creative health assets can improve health and wellbeing and increase equity by tackling the social determinants of health.

Devon Community Assets Research Collaborative: developing, understanding and linking within integrated care systems

Professor Richard Byng, University of Plymouth

This Devon network of community and voluntary groups, researchers and practitioners will work in 3 localities to develop research capacity to support and value our community assets and understand how they can best contribute to address inequalities.

Fylde Coast Research Consortium

Dr Barbara Mezes, University of Liverpool

Coastal communities continue to have more, and greater health challenges compared to their inland neighbours.

This project will use creative methods and co-production to unite experts-by-experience and experts-by-profession from the public and voluntary, community, faith, and social enterprise sectors.

They will build partnerships and identify ways to address health disparities in Fylde Coast and in other coastal communities.

Challenging Health Outcomes and Integrating Care Environments: a community consortium to tackle health disparities for people living with mental illness

Professor Gerard Leavey, Ulster University

In Northern Ireland and elsewhere, people with severe mental illness die prematurely, often due to modifiable medical risk factors. They also experience considerable social exclusion.

Working with experts by experience, this project will use arts-based approaches to highlight the experience of those living with mental illness, and the relationship between exclusion and health.

Weston-super-Mare consortium: harnessing community assets to tackle inequities and reduce social isolation in end-of-life care and bereavement

Dr Lucy Ellen Selman, University of Bristol

This project will create an equal partnership network which brings together:

  • people with lived experience
  • health and social care providers
  • people providing community assets, including arts and culture initiatives
  • academics
  • public health experts

This network will work together to directly tackle inequity in end-of-life care and bereavement support and mitigate social isolation and loneliness.

Tackling health disparities through social innovation: a multi-stakeholder coalition for inclusive health in Brent, London

Dr Maria Kett, University College London

This project will work in collaboration with Brent Borough Partnership. It seeks to understand how community assets and community participation can be leveraged to address systemic health inequalities in the London Borough of Brent.

REALITIES in Health Disparities: researching evidence-based alternatives in living, imaginative, traumatised, integrated, embodied systems

Dr Marisa de Andrade, University of Edinburgh

This project will work across 3 sites:

  • North Lanarkshire
  • Clackmannanshire
  • Easter Ross in the Highlands

The project will collaborate with so-called ‘vulnerable groups’, prisoners, the homeless, those below the poverty line and unemployed, to position these groups as experts of their own health and wellbeing.

It will also question current assumptions of reality, knowledge and morality within public health delivery.

Pathways to health through cultures of neighbourhoods

Professor Joanna Sofaer, University of Southampton

Pathways to health will bring together academics, civic leaders, health professionals, non-governmental organisations and cultural organisations to learn from young people (age 11 to 16) from deprived communities in Southampton.

It will work to understand what culture means to young people, use that understanding to reimagine cultural provision within an integrated care system, and identify how young people can use arts and culture to reduce future health challenges.

Building REsearch by Communities to address Inequities Through Expression (ReCITE) Consortium

Professor Miriam Taegtmeyer, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine

The focus of this project will be on storytelling, which can help disadvantaged communities and people to express, share and validate their lived experiences to tackle health inequity.

It will link creative assets to community health in Liverpool through our established participatory community-led model.

Building a Well Communities Research Consortium to address health disparities through integrated care systems

Professor Angela Harden, City, University of London

The Well Communities Research Consortium will explore how local health and care systems can better interface with, develop and mobilise community assets to improve health and reduce health disparities in 2 contrasting geographical contexts (North East London and Northamptonshire).

Building and evidencing community asset partnerships in housing and health to address health disparities in North East North Cumbria

Professor Monique Lhussier, Northumbria University

The project will bring together a range of services, academics and people who have been homeless to work together to improve the health and wellbeing of all community members.

We will work in direct and equal collaboration with people who have experienced homelessness so that all people can have equitable access to the support they need, when they need it, in the way they need it.

Creating Change: a collaborative action inquiry approach for integrating creativity and community assets into integrated care system responses to health disparities

Professor Barry Percy-Smith, University of Huddersfield

This project is led by University of Huddersfield in partnership with Creative Minds, South West Yorkshire Partnership Foundation Trust and regional creative partners.

It will involve working with stakeholders and people with lived experience as partners to co-develop a programme theory for integrating creativity and community assets into responses to health disparities using an action inquiry approach.

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