Mobilising Community Assets to Tackle Health Inequalities

Mobilising Community Assets to Tackle Health Inequalities

Mobilising Community Assets to Tackle Health Inequalities is a three-phase UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funded Research Programme running from 2021 to 2027. It is led by the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s (AHRC) Programme Director for Health Inequalities, Professor Helen Chatterjee, and coordinated by the Culture-Nature-Health Research Group at University College London, in partnership with the National Centre for Creative Health.

In Phase 1 of the programme, 12 smaller-scale projects investigated how cultural, natural and community assets could be used to improve mental and physical health outcomes in communities affected by inequalities. In Phase 2, 16 projects established cross-sectoral consortia and community hubs to address inequalities. Projects funded in Phase 3 of the programme, announced in early 2024, will aim to tackle health inequalities by exploring how health systems can collaborate more effectively with communities, over a three-year research period.

In celebration of the achievements of projects in Phase 1 and 2, and the new funding awards, the Mobilising Community Assets team hosted a knowledge exchange event, bringing together projects from across all three phases to network and share their outputs and outcomes. To coincide, two reports were published giving initial insights into the work that has taken place so far.

Mobilising Communities: A Knowledge Exchange Event

Projects from across the Mobilising Community Assets to Tackle Health Inequalities research programme gathered at UCL East in London on April 17th 2024 for a day of connecting, networking and sharing learning. As the programme entered Phase 3, this was an excellent opportunity for researchers and community partners to gather and exchange findings and experiences from Phases 1 and 2 and find out more about plans for the next 3 years.

After a welcome from Helen Chatterjee (Mobilising Community Assets Programme Director), Alex Coulter (NCCH Director) and James Sanderson (Director of Community Health and Personalised Care at NHS England), projects from across all three phases provided short presentations about their work, sparking lively discussions around community engagement, social prescribing, and developing research structures and approaches that actively include lived experience. Further insights from the programme to date were on display in the form of posters, resources and artworks generated by Phase 1 and 2 projects.

Between the presentation sessions, projects delivered a range of hands-on workshops using creative and participatory approaches, which not only provided understanding of the research that had taken place, but also gave attendees the chance to experience the techniques first-hand. Participants engaged with topics as diverse as creative approaches to co-production, the use of heritage in tackling rural inequalities, arts therapies to support the mental health of young people, and exploring arts, culture and health ecosystems. We also made full use of the Olympic Park setting, with an outdoor session facilitating creative reflection in nature. Plenty of opportunities were provided for networking, with new connections made between projects. Participants could also, find out more about the work of NCCH, the UCL Mobilising Community Assets programme team and the Lived Experience Advisory Group (LEAG). Participants were also able to take some time out to relax in a friendly safe space, where a creative therapist offered wellbeing support, along with creative provocations around Lived Experience.

The key themes that arose in the sessions were captured by onsite graphic recording artist Jonny Glover, and represented as ‘visual minutes’.

Image: Graphic recording of the event by artist Jonny Glover
Image: Graphic recording of the event by artist Jonny Glover

AHRC’s Director of Research, Strategy and Innovation Dr Jaideep Gupte summarised his experience at the event;

A huge privilege to be amongst all the amazing ideas, actions, lived experience…my main takeaways from the day were the principles of equitable partnerships that participants contributed throughout. These were mutual participation, mutual trust and respect, mutual benefit between and within partners, and recognising and addressing power imbalance between participants.”

Feedback from attendees indicated a desire for more opportunities to exchange learning and connect face-to-face, and so we hope this will be the first of many chances to bring together the MCA community in this way.

Interim findings from Phase 1 and 2

To coincide with the event, two reports were published by the MCA programme team, providing initial overall insights into the work that has taken place so far.

Throughout the project, the MCA Programme Team have been working with funded projects to understand their findings and collect data and information about both the impacts of individual projects, and their experiences of taking an interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral approach to their research.

We have collaborated with the What Works Centre for Wellbeing to collate, analyse and synthesise findings from across Phase 1, using a standardised case study format. You can find out more about this process and the results in the Case Study Synthesis report, available here:

Additionally, an interim report brings together insights from the Case Study Synthesis, as well as focus groups with projects across both phases. It highlights the broad scope of the programme with projects based across the UK, including areas with the highest levels of deprivation, in rural, coastal and urban settings, and addresses racial and ethnic inequalities, and inequalities in access to healthcare services. Key themes arising from the research include:

  • Authentic co-production and embedding lived experience
  • Cross-sectoral partnership working
  • Equitable and sustainable funding models
  • Generating the right kinds of evidence

These themes are summarised in the infographic below, and explored in more detail in the report, available here -

Find out more about the Mobilising Community Assets Research Programme here:

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Image Attendees view creative outputs from Phases 1 and 2

Image Attendees view creative outputs from Phases 1 and 2