Funded by UKRI, 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.

By Mr Shamim Quadir (Senior Communications Officer), Published

Including an interdisciplinary project led by City, University of London, 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.

City’s involvement in the programme

Led by Angela Harden, Professor of Health Sciences at City, University of London, the Building a Well Communities Research Consortium project 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 two contrasting geographical contexts; North East London and Northamptonshire.

The nine-month project was awarded over £200,000 from the wider UKRI programme, and includes partnerships with Barts Health NHS Trust, The Health Creation Alliance, Tower Hamlets Council, the Greater London Authority, Northampton Council, Walls on Walls and co-investigators from the Royal College of Music, the University of Northampton, Voluntary Impact Northamptonshire, UCL, and the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID).

City’s contribution includes expertise from the Centre for Healthcare Innovation Research (CHIR), a unique interdisciplinary venture set up by the School of Health and Psychological Sciences and Bayes Business School.

Dr Katie-Rose Sanfilippo, Research Fellow at CHIR and on the project said:

“I am very excited to be a part of this new collaboration which not only brings together academics from across City, but other academic, government, NHS and third sector organisations to tackle an important issue facing health and social care today. “

Building on previous success

The first phase of the wider UKRI 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 peoples lived experiences are at the heart of the programme.

Looking to the future

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

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.