The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) has awarded £50m to 13 local authorities to tackle health inequalities and improve health outcomes in their area.
The funding will allow the areas to establish research hubs connecting experts and academics to identify and close knowledge gaps in the region.
According to the DHSC, the Health Determinants Research Collaborations (HDRCs) will facilitate research into and interventions to prevent key local challenges affecting people’s health, such as childhood obesity, Covid recovery, mental wellbeing and drug use.
This is the first-time funding for research into health inequalities has been given to local authorities to lead their own projects. It came into effect this month.
The DHSC said each collaboration under the programme will see local governments partner with universities, with the intention of improving data available to decision-makers.
Professor Lucy Chappell, NIHR chief executive, said: ‘This NIHR research funding will provide a foundation to develop local authorities’ capacity and capability to conduct high-quality research.
‘It’s clear that people working in local government have the added advantage of knowing their local areas and communities. This investment will equip them to embed a lasting legacy of research culture to help local populations take important steps forward in tackling health inequalities.’
And Professor Brian Ferguson, director of the NIHR’s Public Health Research Programme, said the funding will help local governments become ‘more research active’.
He said: ‘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.’
It comes after 155 health and care organisations called on the health secretary to commit to publishing a health disparities paper, amid reports it was bring scrapped.
And NHS England guidance published last month urged ICBs to prioritise system spending in areas which have the highest health inequalities.