Why I do research: Professor Ruth Northway

TRAC members and  learning disability Nursing students

Members of USW's Teaching, Research and Advisory Committee


To mark the start of Learning Disability Week, Ruth Northway, professor of learning disability nursing and head of unit for research into intellectual and developmental disabilities, talks about the importance of research in this area


Participatory research


Ever since I was young I have always asked a lot of questions so undertaking research seems a natural extension of that! One of my key areas of research interest is in the health of people with learning disabilities and I feel that research in this area is essential to challenge the health inequalities experienced by people with learning disabilities and to ensure that they have safe and equitable access to healthcare. 

My other key interest is in working with people with learning disabilities to plan and undertake research. For me this is important because for too long the voice of people with learning disabilities has been absent from research about their lives and this needs to change.


Professor Northway with members of the teaching, research and advisory committee

Ruth with members of TRAC


Research is essential to challenge inequalities


For me, research isn’t about doing research for its own sake but rather it is about improving our knowledge and understanding so that we can challenge and change things for the better.It is about trying to make a difference. 

In the case of my research I hope that it will go some way to improving the health and well-being of people with learning disabilities and their families and to ensuring that their voices are present and heard in such research.


The rewards


Doing research can be challenging but the rewards are many - working with some great people, satisfying personal and professional curiosity, seeing changes made as a result of your findings. However, for me one of the greatest rewards has been the opportunity to undertake collaborative research with people with learning disabilities. 

It has been fabulous to see them develop as researchers, to learn from and with them, and to develop myself both as a researcher and as a person.


Listen to Ruth Northway's podcast on the importance of communication tools in healthcare >>


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