We held two webinars for potential applicants led by Professor Helen Chatterjee, programme director for health disparities and organised by AHRC.
The webinars provided information and guidance on this funding opportunity and included a question and answer session.
At the webinar, it was possible to request support in finding collaborators with specific expertise. Use the links below to watch the webinar recordings:
In the past decade, there has been increased recognition of the links between economic, social and health disparities, and of the uneven distribution of health outcomes within and between UK communities.
Read the Fair Society Healthy Lives (The Marmot Review) (Institute of Health Equity) and Health Equity in England: The Marmot Review 10 Years On (Institute of Health Equity).
Cultural, natural and community assets are known to improve health outcomes, but such resources are also unevenly distributed. Assets include:
- artists and arts organisations
- heritage sites
- green and blue spaces such as parks, the coastline and waterways, gyms and other sports and exercise-related assets, and legal or debt advice services.
Addressing these disparities is more urgent in the wake of COVID-19, where people experiencing the worst disparities have been most at risk.
Read the Build Back Fairer: The COVID-19 Marmot Review (Institute of Health Equity).
The implementation of integrated health services (via integrated care systems, and equivalents in the devolved nations) provides both a challenge and an opportunity.
New legislation recognises the potential benefits of better integration between NHS, local councils and other important strategic partners such as the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector.
But operationalising such integration in order to make community assets more readily commissionable is challenging due to the complexity and diversity of the communities ecosystem.
Community assets tend to operate at a hyper-local level, servicing small numbers of vulnerable communities, and are often financed by small-scale, short-term funding.
Hence further research is required to understand how and in what ways community assets can be mobilised to address health disparities at a larger scale.
This opportunity forms part of the AHRC-led multi-year transdisciplinary programme, Mobilising Community Assets to Tackle Health Disparities in partnership with the National Centre for Creative Health. The objectives of which are to:
- develop testable and replicable collaborative models for integrating cultural, natural and community assets within the changing structures of health and social care, in order to achieve better integration at ICS or equivalent level
- better understand the links between cultural, natural and community assets and health disparities at a local and ICS level, with a view to mobilising those assets within health systems to support prevention and intervention strategies, particularly for people living in the most deprived areas
- understand the complexities, barriers and enablers of integrating the local asset ecosystem with the public health ecosystem
- converge data and learning from a range of local models to inform the spread and adoption of collaborative models across the UK.
Phase one of this programme comprises 12 regionally distributed UKRI-funded research projects which started January 2022.
These pilot projects aim to understand the potential for health systems change by exploring how community assets are collaborating both with each other and with healthcare partners to address health disparities amongst target populations.
In tandem, a national meta-research project (led by UCL and hosted by the National Centre for Creative Health) is collating data from the 12 UKRI pilots alongside data from a number of additional community asset test sites:
- National Centre for Creative Health and NHS England (NHSE): Creative Health Hubs (four times Test and Learn sites)
- DEFRA, DHSC and Natural England: Green Social Prescribing Programme (seven times Test and Learn sites)
- National Academy for Social Prescribing: Thriving Communities Fund (37 times funded projects)
- NERC Quality of Urban Environments with Nature Connectedness and Health network (five proof of concept studies)
- The National Lottery Community fund.
Through data mapping from the above projects, phase one is using health systems research methods to build a picture of how hyper-local community asset ecosystems operate, by understanding who is involved (the providers and their partners), and the barriers and enablers to successful interfacing with health partners.
Programme director for health disparities and the NCCH
Successfully funded consortium-building projects will work closely with AHRC’s programme director for health disparities (Professor Helen Chatterjee, UCL), hosted by NCCH and team.
The programme director for health disparities and the research team will:
- maintain oversight of the consortium building
- provide support and guidance
- host regular forums for consortium coordinators to exchange information.
Lived Experience representatives will work closely with equivalent representatives from each consortium building project to develop guidance on how to include lived experience in health systems research and delivery.
Research findings will feed into UK policy making and strategic work undertaken through collaboration with:
- relevant UK government departments, for example:
- Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC)
- Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)
- Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
- Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC)
- devolved equivalents
- arm’s length bodies, for example:
- Natural England
- the National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP)
- Local Government Association
- National Council for Voluntary Organisations
- What Works Centre for Wellbeing
- Historic Environment Scotland
- National Survivor Users Network
- Lived Experience Network.
The team will be responsible for all translational aspects of the programme and will continue to respond rapidly to opportunities to embed the research findings in key initiatives and drivers such as the Health and Social Care Bill, ICS White Paper and NHS Core20PLUS5.
Future direction of the programme
Future phases seek to scale up phase one research, drawing together local place-based learning across whole or part of an ICS (or equivalent in the devolved nations), with a view to developing and testing models for collaborative partnership working across the community asset ecosystem.
Developing such models will test the feasibility and benefits of bringing together disparate community assets within a collaborative hub or partnership, with a view to enabling them to operate more effectively across the breadth of an ICS (or equivalent), with a focus on tackling health disparities.
This ecosystem approach to tackling public health is known as Ecological Public Health.
Read the Ecological public health: the 21st century’s big idea? An essay by Tim Lang and Geof Rayner (National Library of Medicine).
The community asset ecosystem is potentially a key vehicle for tackling health disparities through social prescribing and health prevention strategies. However, to realise this potential, greater collaboration is needed between local community assets and statutory services at the ICS level.
Read ‘The role of cultural, community and natural assets in addressing societal and structural health inequalities in the UK: future research priorities’ article (BMC).
The fundamental objective of implementing ICSs is better integration of services across the community with a particular focus on tackling disparities and levelling up outcomes.
Read the ‘Integration and innovation: working together to improve health and social care for all (HTML version)’ policy (GOV.UK).
There is extensive evidence regarding the causes of health disparities in the UK. For example, there is a positive correlation between greater access to green spaces and reduced health disparities, but much less data or evidence regarding access to other types of community assets.
Read the Health Equity in England: The Marmot Review 10 Years On (Institute of Health Equity).
Deprivation indices measure access to or distance from GP surgeries, schools, and shops but not community centres, libraries, museums, parks and other green and blue assets such as the coast.
Recent UKRI-funded research has shown that people living in areas of higher deprivation are less likely to engage in community activities, but if they do engage it can have more benefits for their mental health than people in more affluent areas.
Read the ‘Associations between community cultural engagement and life satisfaction, mental distress and mental health functioning using data from the UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS): are associations moderated by area deprivation?’ (BMJ) article.
This highlights a need to better understand the drivers of deprivation across communities at or below ICS level and link this with community asset mapping to explore the potential for more targeted services across community asset hubs.
Read the ‘Bromley by Bow Community Engagement and Citizen Science’ (Bromley by Bow Centre) article.
Developing targeted solutions in collaboration with community assets affords an opportunity to direct community-led services towards those individuals living in the most deprived communities, such as those identified in NHS’s Core2PLUS5, and make better links between public health and the health of the environment by integrating pro-healthy and pro-environmental strategies.
Integrating community assets however can be challenging due to the diversity and complexity of community asset ecosystems which are hard to navigate and operate largely outside of statutory services.
Though many community assets provide programmes and services that directly address health outcomes including amongst marginalised and vulnerable individuals and communities, they tend to operate at small scales supporting small numbers of individuals.
Furthermore, most of their funding is small-scale and short-term so provision changes rapidly, restricting sustained engagement with targeted vulnerable groups, which is essential for health creation (or effective prevention) and for tackling complex health problems. The fragility of the community asset ecosystem is therefore a critical challenge..
Community asset partnerships offer a potential solution. Providing a tangible model for ICS collaboration, these partnerships would make it easier for commissioners to fund and partner with community assets.
Despite several excellent examples of collaboration across community assets in some regions (notably Gloucestershire and West Yorkshire), most community assets do not currently collaborate in any formalised partnership model as a vehicle for providing services.
Implementing such a model therefore requires significant research, development and testing, evaluating the various different recommended approaches for collaboration between the VCSE and health sectors (for example Prime Provider Model, Alliance Contractor Model, Hub and Spoke consortium) at local (ICS) level but also developing new approaches.
The purpose of phase two of this programme is therefore to build a consortium which has the potential to develop tangible models for ICS (or equivalent) collaboration between community assets and health partners.
Successful projects will be required to work with the programme director for health disparities, who is hosted by NCCH.
The programme director for health disparities will:
- ensure that knowledge held by NCCH is available to projects
- translate academic research outputs to policy and NHS systems
- connect the programme’s projects with each other and with those in other programmes.
The following details of the successful projects will be shared for the above purposes:
- principal investigator name and contact email
- co-investigator name and contact email
- project partner name and contact email
- case for support.
How we will use your personal data
The personal data you give us will be used to facilitate the Mobilising Community Assets to Tackle Health Disparities programme through sharing applicant’s contact details with the programme director and the principal investigators of the other successful projects for collaboration and communication purposes as described above.
Your personal data will be handled in line with UK data protection legislation and managed securely. If you would like to know more, including how to exercise your rights, please see our privacy notice.