Millions of pounds has been awarded to North Yorkshire Council for a project that will use research to identify the causes of health inequalities across the county.
A total of £5 million in research investment funding is being provided by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) as part of a £55 million scheme covering 11 areas of England and Wales.
It will enable the authority, in partnership with Hull York Medical School, the University of Hull and the University of York, to boost its research capacity and skills to help identify and address the issues affecting the health of the people of North Yorkshire.
Known as the NIHR Health Determinants Research Collaboration North Yorkshire, the five-year programme of funding will help to inform and shape how the council delivers its services.
North Yorkshire Council’s executive member for health and adult services, Cllr Michael Harrison, said: “Research shows us that education, income, housing, and access to transportation play a significant role in an individual’s overall health.
“This collaboration will help us better identify the local social economic and environmental factors that influence the health and wellbeing of our residents and help the council with our partners to shape policies and interventions that promote health equity.”
Co-chief investigator for the Health Determinants Research Collaboration North Yorkshire, Dr Mark Pearson, of Hull York Medical School, said: “Research is an essential component of public health, helping us to understand the determinants of health, identify and address health inequalities and evaluate the impact of new approaches or interventions.
“We will work in partnership with North Yorkshire Council to share our research knowledge and expertise and support them to build capacity and capabilities in research, which we hope will facilitate improvements in health within the region.”
While the general population of North Yorkshire is in good health overall, the county includes diverse areas and communities and incorporates urban, rural and coastal districts. This means residents face differing and varied health challenges, depending on where they live.
The most recent English Indices of Deprivation report shows that one in 17 of North Yorkshire residents live in areas that are among the 20 per cent most deprived nationally.
Some communities live shorter lives and have fewer years of good health, due in the main to factors outside their control. One of the best ways to understand and improve these differences is through research.
The Vice Chancellor of the University of Hull, Professor Dave Petley, said: “We are delighted to be partners on the NIHR Health Determinants Research Collaboration North Yorkshire.
“The partnership comes at a pivotal time to support the newly formed council’s larger remit and ambition to be research-driven and evidence-led and aligns with the University of Hull’s strategic ambition to deliver real-world impact driven by high quality research and innovation.
“Being based in a large and diverse region with significant social and economic deprivation, the university is committed to serve as an anchor institution, strengthening the region’s health and well-being for socioeconomic benefit through responsible innovation and sustainable transformation.”
The academic lead at the University of York, Professor Helen Weatherly, said: “It’s a tremendous honour to be part of this exciting new grant.
“My colleagues and I look forward to working closely with North Yorkshire Council and the University of Hull and welcome the opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of people in North Yorkshire.”
The Health Determinants Research Collaboration will be based within North Yorkshire Council and will see specialist staff employed to assist the authority to engage more in research. It will also help to attract funding for further research activities in the future.
The Director of the NIHR Public Health Research Programme, Professor Brian Ferguson, said: “We expect the Health Determinants Research Collaboration areas to engage actively with their local communities to listen to people’s views and involve them appropriately in shaping and undertaking research.
“By focusing on the wider determinants of health such as employment, housing, education and the physical environment, the areas we are supporting have a tremendous opportunity to make a lasting impact on health inequalities and wider deprivation.”
Work on the project is expected to start on January 1, 2024.