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NIHR invests a further £55m to tackle health inequalities through local government research

Published: 29 November 2023

Millions of people will benefit from a further £55 million research investment to tackle health inequalities and improve health outcomes in local areas across the UK.

NIHR is investing a second wave of funding into 11 new Health Determinants Research Collaborations (HDRCs) over the next 5 years. These innovative local government partnerships will boost research capacity and capability in some of the UK’s most deprived areas. They will span the devolved administrations and include a mixture of urban, rural and coastal areas. Boosting research capacity in coastal and rural communities is a key part of NIHR’s work with under-served communities. This was highlighted in a recent Chief Medical Officer’s report.

The 11 new HDRCs announced today are expected to go ‘live’ on 1 January 2024. A further 6 HDRCs will start on 1 January 2025, providing agreed criteria are met during their development year. The new HDRCs follow in the footsteps of 13 successful HDRCs already established following the first wave of funding. This will bring the total to 24 live HDRCs as of 1 January 2024, with an expectation that the total cohort will grow to 30 HDRCs, with an annual recurring investment of £30 million.

Professor Brian Ferguson, Director of the NIHR Public Health Research Programme, said: “People living in communities across the country face major challenges that are impacting on their health. Once again, NIHR is taking a huge stride forward in empowering local government to develop research to improve their communities’ health and wellbeing.

“Continued HDRC innovation will boost partnerships between local government and the academic sector, enabling local authorities to make better evidence-informed decisions - critical given the current pressures on funding. We expect the HDRC areas to engage actively with their local communities to listen to people’s views and involve them appropriately in shaping and undertaking research.

“By focusing on the wider determinants of health such as employment, housing, education and the physical environment, the areas we are supporting have a tremendous opportunity to make a lasting impact on health inequalities and wider deprivation."

Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins said: “Everyone should have access to high quality health and social care services, no matter who you are or where you live.

“From Cornwall to Cumberland, these local projects, backed by £55 million in Government funding through the NIHR, will help ensure that vital research funding reaches our rural and coastal communities.”

Building local government infrastructure

This major investment is central to NIHR’s offer to local government, providing infrastructure to enable local authorities to become more research-active. It will empower them to develop and strengthen effective collaborations with the HEI sector. The HDRCs will help to stimulate economic growth and regeneration in some of the most deprived areas of the country. They will contribute to reducing pressure on NHS services by improving public health.

Each HDRC is usually hosted by a single local authority which works with either its local university or institutions with expertise in the wider determinants of health. This brings together local government knowledge with research skills from the academic community. The aim is improving the evidence base on which to make policy decisions in important areas that impact on health and health inequalities. The successfully funded HDRCs to date have all demonstrated a clear commitment to respond to the needs of local under-served groups and areas. They have clear and convincing plans to actively involve their local populations.

Examples include facilitating research to better understand and introduce interventions to help with drug-related deaths, violent crime, issues facing children and young people, employment and skills. This is as well as tackling health inequalities and wider deprivation.

Second wave outcome:

Funded HDRCs (expected start date 1 January 2024):

● London Borough of Ealing

● Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

● Wakefield Council

● Southampton City Council

● Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council

● Liverpool City Council

● Somerset Council

● Cumberland Council

● Cornwall Council

● Essex County Council

● North Yorkshire Council

HDRCs receiving development award funding (expected to become ‘full’ HDRCs on 1 January 2025):

● Manchester City Council

● Portsmouth City Council

● Torfaen County Borough Council

● Leicestershire County Council

● Glasgow City Council

● Surrey County Council

More information on HDRCs, including those funded in the first wave, is available on the NIHR website.

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