Research partnerships are providing a powerful way to examine the links between our environment and health, combining both academic and private sector expertise.
To shed light on how natural environments can affect children’s health and wellbeing, one of the Centre’s PhD researchers, supported by ESF Convergence, recently joined forces with Cornish community interest companies, Exhale and GB Boardriders.
Both companies carry out interventions that promote healthier lifestyles – targeted at children at risk of obesity and exclusion from school. Working with Dr Rebecca Jenkin, the team have concentrated on understanding how natural environments might influence children’s self-control and mood.
“Working with both companies has been a brilliant experience.”
They used a wide range of methods to collect data in several settings, with Becky even volunteering for one of Exhale’s programmes. By embedding herself in its delivery, Becky was able to gain an unparalleled insight into the intervention:
“Working with both companies has been a brilliant experience. Having access to an applied setting and working with experts in the field has been crucial to this study’s process and our results.”
Their analysis produced varied results with definitive conclusions hard to pin down. Nonetheless, the partnership has highlighted how the benefits of collaborative research can extend far beyond findings alone.
Niky Dix, Director at Exhale, believes they’ve learned a lot from the process:
“This research has taught us a great deal about measuring impact and developing an intervention that’s both sustainable and scalable. Without the insight this project has given us I don’t think we’d have thought so clearly about those factors, which are crucial to a programme’s success.”
Director at GB Boardriders, Mod Le Froy, has found access to academic partners to be particularly useful:
“Being a part of this research has helped us to network and connect with people we’d never have otherwise met. It’s also helped us to evaluate and develop our programme – providing an insight that, as a small charity, would be hard to achieve on our own.”
By pioneering an integrated research approach and tackling questions we know little about, the team are hoping that their study will form the first part of a much closer look at how nature can influence children’s wellbeing.