USW project to help communities reduce health inequalities

Scottish highlands

Dr Sara Bradley, Senior Research Fellow, at the University of South Wales is leading a project forming part of multi-million pound ‘Mobilising Community Assets to tackle Health Inequalities programme’.

Funded by UK Research and Innovation and led by Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the programme aims to improve health through access to culture, nature, and community. It involves various projects which seek to tackle entrenched and long-standing health inequalities in Britain’s poorest communities by exploring how health systems can collaborate more effectively with communities.

Dr Bradley’s research will explore how community-based services can address the challenges faced by rural communities in the Scottish Highlands, such as social isolation, deprivation, and delivering services to dispersed communities across large geographical areas.

She will work with local residents, community groups, and healthcare professionals to maximise the use of community assets such as museums, libraries and green spaces to integrate them with health and care systems.

Dr Bradley said: “This project will deepen our understanding of rural health inequalities and how to address them in a way that will benefit rural communities across the UK and beyond. By actively involving local residents, we will help rural communities to have a meaningful role in research and service design.

“This represents an excellent opportunity to research rural health inequalities, which often remain hidden, and to highlight the importance of community-based resources to rural areas. Our aim is to increase public engagement with local cultural and natural resources in order to widen participation, improve community resilience, and promote mental well-being.”

AHRC Health Inequalities Programme Director Helen Chatterjee said,

“The evidence is clear – intellectual stimulation, a sense of purpose, engagement in your community and a fulfilling social life are as important as diet, exercise and medical care when it comes to living a long and healthy life. Yet often public health interventions neglect this reality.

“These projects seek to improve the length and quality of our lives by making use of the rich cultural, artistic, nature and social resources that already exist within our communities. In this way, we can shape a healthier, happier Britain.”

Director of Community Health and Personalised Care at NHS England, James Sanderson, said: “We know that joining up care leads to better outcomes for people. When local partners – the NHS, councils, the voluntary sector and others work together, they can create better services based on local need and what matters to people. Harnessing community assets, finding the opportunities for connection, activity and purpose can support people to achieve good health and wellbeing outcomes.”

The programme is also run in partnership with the National Centre for Creative Health.