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Building blocks of health - the social factors which influence health equity

Ealing Council wins £5 million research capacity bid

Ealing Council has been awarded £5 million from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) to create a research capacity collaboration with the local community and leading academics.

Although the borough’s 7 towns have much to celebrate, there are stark and longstanding inequities in health determinants – the ‘building blocks’ of health like education, social connection, housing, and good jobs. This leads to poorer health and shorter lives for disadvantaged communities.

To address these issues, the council has formed a new team called NIHR Health Determinants Research Collaboration Ealing. Working closely with partners from local community organisations and research institutions, the team has successfully bid for funding that, over the next 5 years, will help the council better understand where health challenges lie. A new approach to collecting and learning from data and insights on the building blocks of health will drive greater health equity in Ealing.

Community involvement

During a competitive application process, the NIHR’s Health Determinants Research Collaborations funding committee was impressed that the bid had a strong focus on community involvement and engagement with Ealing’s voluntary and community sector as a core part of the application process, including as part of the interview team. Ealing was the only London borough to win funding in this round.

The panel also welcomed the strong buy-in from the council’s senior leadership and the authority’s commitment to building a strong research and learning culture, which is built on deep engagement with, and learning from, Ealing’s diverse communities.

Councillor Peter Mason is the leader of Ealing Council. He said: “We are delighted that the work we have done so far on building a culture of learning at the council, and on bringing our communities into decision-making, has been recognised by the NIHR panel. We are really looking forward to getting stuck into this project and building our capacity for meaningful research that will help us change the lives of Ealing residents for the better.”

‘Creating a society where everyone can thrive’

Councillor Josh Blacker, the council’s cabinet member for healthy lives said: “The conditions in which we are born, grow, live, work, and age impact our health. Creating a society where everyone can thrive needs all the right building blocks in place: good education, quality housing, stable jobs, and good pay. But for too many of our communities, blocks are missing or are inadequate, and we need to learn how to fix the gaps.

“The council is already tackling these inequalities through commitments in our council plan, our health and wellbeing strategy, ‘Together in Ealing,’ and our response to Ealing’s independent Race Equality Commission. This funding will build on our momentum for change. By changing our capacity to learn and improve, it will help us to better understand the health issues local people face, which in turn will inform positive actions across all areas of life in Ealing.”

A core multidisciplinary team of council staff from the strategy, public health, community engagement, and data teams, along with academic partners and community groups, will drive the work to develop research capacity forward. Starting in early 2024, the first phases of the 5-year programme will involve establishing new research structures, including a Communities Board so that the collaboration’s research agenda meets the needs of local people.

Partnerships

Partners from the voluntary community sector include Golden Opportunities for Skills and Development, Ealing and Hounslow Community and Voluntary Service (EHCVS), and Southall Community Alliance.

Gurpreet Rana is the chief executive officer of EHCVS. She said: “This opportunity will enhance research skills in the sector, support research development in active community settings, and develop strong and trusting relationships between voluntary, charity, and faith sector organisations and academic partners. The project will enable communities to shape where they live.”

The council’s research academia partners in this project are the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Imperial College London, and the Institute of Development Studies.

Professor Matt Egan from London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine said: “This is an important opportunity to work with Ealing and its communities, as well as incredible partners from other universities. By working together, we can learn more about creating building blocks for better health across Ealing and beyond.”

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