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Council wins £5m research boost to address health inequalities

Tower Hamlets Council and its partners have secured a £5m funding award through a new national scheme to boost support for research to address health inequalities. 

The funding, awarded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) for a Health Determinants Research Collaboration (HDRC), will significantly increase the council’s capacity to work with local communities to address the social, economic and environmental factors that impact people’s physical and mental health.  

The NIHR has announced the multimillion-pound investment for 10 pioneering HDRCs across the UK, to provide the capacity and capability for local authorities to undertake public health research to address the wider determinants of health and health inequalities.  

A further three councils will be receiving development award funding during 2022/23, with the prospect of them becoming full HDRCs the following financial year. 

The award will support collaboration between the council, Tower Hamlets Council for Voluntary Services (THCVS), Queen Mary University of London, University of East London, London Metropolitan University and others, with partners taking a lead in delivering innovative research on the wider causes of health inequalities. 

Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, said: 

“Our residents have fewer good years of health than almost anywhere else in the country and that needs to change.  

“While we know that some groups are more likely to be affected by things like poverty, overcrowding and health conditions like diabetes and heart disease, solid research rooted in our communities is needed to help us understand how our policy decisions can make a real-life change. 

“Our ambition is to make Tower Hamlets the ‘go to’ place for research into the factors that drive health inequalities. This funding boost will help us transform how research is conducted and used, to help make sure everyone in our community can live a long and healthy life.” 

Will Tuckley, Chief Executive of Tower Hamlets Council, said: 

“We have a vibrant and diverse population in Tower Hamlets, but some of our communities are disproportionately affected by illness and poor health. The Covid-19 pandemic shone a light on this, but we know that this is just the tip of the iceberg. 

“We are delighted to have been successful in what was a competitive bidding process and be among the first set of councils to be at the forefront of delivering this work to tackle health inequalities.  

“This funding will allow us to embed an innovative research infrastructure so we can make sure addressing health inequalities is at the heart of everything we do.  

“By building on our strong links with the voluntary sector and the tradition of community-led research in our borough, this funding will help us to further engage our communities in shaping research. Ultimately, this will have a huge impact on people’s lives.”  

Professor Trevor Sheldon, Professor of Health Services at Queen Mary said:   

“This funding is an extremely welcome enhancement to an innovative research programme that speaks very tangibly to Queen Mary’s civic commitment to healthy and sustainable futures in East London. More research is vital to understanding the causes of health inequalities in the borough but more importantly, how to intervene effectively to reduce them.  

“We look forward to collaborating with colleagues to deliver tangible results which will inform policy decisions for change throughout the lifecycle of this five-year investment.” 

Safia Jama MBE, CEO of Women’s Inclusive Team said:  

“As the leader of a community organisation in the borough, I’m delighted that Tower Hamlets has been awarded this funding. It is vital that our HDRC is rooted in our communities. The funding will enable many of our smaller voluntary organisations to become more research active.  

“Importantly, it will help to transform how we do things by involving our grassroots organisations and diverse communities as active partners in setting research priorities from the start. This means that the evidence we produce on how best we can tackle health inequalities is enriched by community knowledge and lived experience.” 

Posted on Tuesday 11th October 2022