Falmouth University joins £5m research collaboration to tackle health inequalities

06 December 2023

Orange and black Penryn Campus Sports Hall building with blue sky in the background
Sports hall exterior building

Falmouth University joins Exeter University, Plymouth University and Cornwall Council in £5m research collaboration to tackle health inequalities in local communities.  

Cornwall Council has 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. 

The successful bid was led by Cornwall Council, in partnership with the Universities of Falmouth, Exeter and Plymouth as well as 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.” 

Falmouth University is delighted to be a partner in the exciting and timely research focused initiative that focuses on addressing wider health determinants and inequalities in Cornwall.

As part of the partnership, Falmouth University is creating the pivotal mechanism for curating, generating and embedding high quality place-based knowledge to develop evidence-led systems and services to tackle health determinants that matter most for the population of Cornwall. 

Along with other university partners, the University is developing a multi-sectoral model of research collaboration in which the specialist expertise, skills and knowledge from academic, community and local authority stakeholders are given equal status and combined to address the complex, context-dependent determinants of health through culture change, capacity building, collaboration and co-production.  

Anna Mankee-Williams is Associate Professor of Arts and Health at Falmouth University. Speaking of the University’s involvement, she said: “Falmouth University is delighted to be a partner in the exciting and timely research focused initiative that focuses on addressing wider health determinants and inequalities in Cornwall. We offer a unique perspective through the lens of arts-based research and creative practice to explore how context shapes lived experience and subsequently both the social and health determinants that impact on the population of Cornwall.

"Understanding this context is crucial to responsive strategic planning, policy development and provision of services. We welcome this opportunity to work with a breadth of partners including the community of Cornwall in co-designing, implementing, curating and building research capacity across the organisations that exist to improve the lives of people in Cornwall.” 

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.” 

Speaking on behalf of the University of Exeter, Professor Emma Bland said: “This funding is a real coup for Cornwall, which will bring benefits across our community by supporting service innovation based on evidence. 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 5-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.



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