A new innovative research partnership has been awarded funding to help tackle health inequalities in Plymouth.
The University of Plymouth, supported by PenARC and in partnership with Plymouth City Council has been awarded more than £4.7 million from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) to create a Health Determinants Research Collaboration (HDRC). Researchers, in collaboration with the city’s community and voluntary sector will explore how factors like housing, education, safe streets and a sense of community impact on health and how this creates inequalities across different areas of the city.
Plymouth is one of 10 locations across the country to be given funding to set up a collaboration supporting research into the social determinants of health. The HDRC will help the council to make evidence-based decisions, with the ultimate aim of reducing health inequalities, stimulating economic growth and addressing the challenges faced by the health and care system.
The University will use its share of the funding to adapt an existing and successful embedded research model. This will involve researchers-in-residence working with Plymouth City Council staff and community partners to carry out research and evaluation projects to address the determinants of health inequalities in the city.
“In order to improve public health and tackle inequalities it is critical that we address the wider determinants of poor health in our city. This can only be done through partnership working, and by bringing in academic expertise from a wide range of disciplines, not all of which will be directly associated with health. The funding provided through the HDRC gives us a unique opportunity to do this in Plymouth and will also provide findings which could be applied to other coastal areas. The University is therefore thrilled to be partnering with the council on this exciting and crucially important venture.”
Dr Ruth Harrell, Plymouth’s Director of Public Health, said:
“Across the city, people are passionate about reducing health inequalities. We can often show the ways in which interventions have helped individuals and see how their lives have improved, but it is really difficult to get the academic evidence to support this, which is needed to drive investment into the right things at population level. This collaboration will help us to develop new interventions and understand if they work, informing our future decisions. It will also enable us to develop the methodologies required to be able to understand what works, how it works and if it will work in different locations or with a different group of people.”
Matt Bell, Chief Executive of Plymouth Octopus Project, said:
“At Plymouth Octopus, we are incredibly excited about the HDRC. We believe the voluntary community and social enterprise sector can play a critical role in connecting research deeply into how we tackle the wicked issue of health inequality. The way the sector and citizen voice are recognised in the HDRC is a testament to the systemic approach the City Council and University have taken.”
The announcement builds on NIHR work started before the COVID-19 pandemic to understand local authorities’ research and evidence challenges. It demonstrates the Government’s aim to stimulate economic growth in all parts of the country and identify local solutions that address the most difficult challenges across the health and care system.
Professor Lucy Chappell, NIHR CEO, said:
“Millions of people living in Britain’s towns, cities and regions face a huge range of public health challenges, brought into focus during the COVID-19 pandemic. This NIHR research funding will provide a foundation to develop local authorities’ capacity and capability to conduct high-quality research. It’s clear that people working in local government have the added advantage of knowing their local areas and communities. This investment will equip them to embed a lasting legacy of research culture to help local populations take important steps forward in tackling health inequalities.”
Read the national HDRC announcement: £50 million awarded to local government to tackle interventions for health inequalities through research