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NIHR pilot works to improve awareness and inclusion in research

Published: 25 November 2022

A pilot scheme designed to engage under-served communities and improve inclusion and representation in health and care research has been so successful that it is now being rolled out across England.

Running from Autumn 2021 to August 2022, the Research Ready Communities programme worked with three different groups in Blackpool, Brixton and Doncaster. It engaged with young people in Blackpool, residents in the Balby and Hexthorpe areas of Doncaster, and migrant women and residents in Brixton, South London.

The innovative programme worked in partnership with local voluntary and community sector organisations to train locally-based ‘Community Champions’, who then spoke with these three groups to understand their levels of awareness and perceptions about research.

From these conversations, a range of activities were then designed and put on, including awareness-raising sessions at a local community centre, skills building days for young people, and building a research tree in a community garden where residents could hang their wishes for local research.

A report containing recommendations and learnings from the pilot has now been produced and NIHR is developing  materials for training and guidance to help others follow the same process across the country.

The feedback from the groups and participating Local Clinical Research Networks (LCRNs) in the qualitative data collated at the end of the pilot was so positive that the decision was made to roll the scheme out nationally. As a result, all fifteen LCRNs have now started implementing the same programme to increase engagement with their under-served communities in their regions. The hope is that this will help ensure research is more representative and inclusive of all groups. Progress will be reviewed by LCRNs on an annual basis to share learnings.

Dr William van’t Hoff, Chief Executive Officer at the NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) said

“Given the importance of patient and public involvement in research, championing and integrating communities that are currently under-served by health and care research is an NIHR priority. Increasing their access to research opportunities is a step to supporting better patient outcomes for all.

It’s vital that we increase the level of awareness, engagement and trust in health research with people in all our communities. This pilot scheme is a great step in that direction.”

The Research Ready Communities: Pilot evaluation 2021-22 report provides an overview of the pilot and recommendations. For a copy of the report, please email the CRN PPIE team

The Research Ready Communities programme is part of ongoing work to encourage wider public involvement in health and care research. NIHR will continue to work with communities to understand their needs, look at which research is carried out, how it is carried out and how the results are shared. For more on NIHR's ongoing community work see:

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