Cornwall awarded nearly £5m to tackle health inequalities in local communities

Posted on 13th December 2023

Nearly £5m has been awarded to form a research collaboration that will help improve people’s health and wellbeing in Cornwall.

The University of Exeter is one of a number of partners lead by Cornwall Council, to have been awarded £4.96m from National Institute of Health and Care Research (NIHR) to fund a Health Determinant Research Collaboration (HRDC).

The Cornwall Health Determinants Research Collaborative is one of 11 new HDRCs announced, which will add to 13 that were established last year. Other partners in the bid are the universities of Falmouth and Plymouth and Cornwall Voluntary Sector Forum.

Cornwall Council cabinet member for adult social care and health, Andy Virr said: “This is great news and means that we can work with local universities, communities and organisations to do more research on issues that affect people in Cornwall. This will help us to accelerate research and develop innovative solutions to tackle these issues so that residents can live a healthier life.”

Director of Public Health Rachel Wigglesworth said: “Health determinants include things like employment, housing, education and the physical environment. By understanding how these factors are affecting people we can make sure that decisions made for people in Cornwall are based on what is really affecting their health and wellbeing. This major investment is a great opportunity to develop Cornwall as an area for public health research and innovation.”

Professor Sheena Asthana, from the University of Plymouth, is a co-applicant of Cornwall HDRC and the academic lead of the Plymouth HDRC. She said: “The establishment of Cornwall HDRC is a very welcome development for the Peninsula. There is growing awareness that peripheral coastal and rural areas are facing unique health challenges but little evidence to date of the specific solutions that such areas require to address the wider determinants of health.”

Dr Penelope Welbourne, Associate Professor in Social Work at the University of Plymouth, is another co-applicant of Cornwall HDRC. She said: “We are delighted to be able to bring our expertise in supporting non-academic partners in building research capacity through innovative methods such as the use of researchers in residence and research practitioners. It is exciting and fulfilling to work with statutory and community partners to build capacity for locally relevant and impactful research.”

Professor Emma Bland, of the University of Exeter, said: “This funding is a real coup for Cornwall, which will bring benefits across our community by supporting service innovation based on evidence. To help make sure that everyone in Cornwall has the opportunity to thrive, it’s important to understand which factors have the biggest impact, who they effect, what are the possible solutions, and how well the solutions can work locally to improve people’s health and wellbeing.

“Building on our established links with Cornwall Council, we’re looking forward to combining our world-class research strengths with each of our partners and importantly, with communities, to get the best outcomes for the people of Cornwall.”

The monies will be received over a five-year period and aim to bring together the expertise of all of the organisations involved and create closer collaboration in delivering research in communities in Cornwall.

As part of the collaboration a Citizen’s Research Group will be established which will work with communities and people in Cornwall to help shape and develop shared priorities.

The funding comes into place in January 2024. Initially it will be used to create new jobs and will provide career development opportunities. With an expert team in place, further funding will be used to secure more research grants for the Council and the partners of the collaboration.

This year’s Director Public Health’s Annual Report focused on health inequalities and you can find out more about how these affect the population of Cornwall on the Council’s website.

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