Lancaster University: Reducing health inequalities by increasing resilience in neighbourhoods

A team at Lancaster University linked to the National Institute for Health Research Applied Research Collaboration North-West Coast (NIHR ARC NWC) has created an online resource for public sector professionals and community activists working locally to reduce health inequalities.

The resource translates lessons from the Neighbourhood Resilience Programme (NRP). It was implemented in nine neighbourhoods in North West England between 2016 and 2019 by the NIHR Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) North West Coast that preceeded the ARC NWC.

Professor Jennie Popay who led the team said: “This approach aims to enhance the collective capacities of everybody living and working in a neighbourhood, and the organisations operating there, to deliver co-ordinated action to improve the root causes of health inequalities.”

Professor Mark Gabbay director of the NIHR ARC NWC said: “This was an innovative and landmark programme that we at NIHR CLAHRC and now NIHR ARC NWC are truly proud of. It demonstrates true in-depth public involvement and community empowerment to reduce inequalities and improve health and wellbeing.”

Case studies of nine neighbourhoods offer insight into the opportunities and challenges encountered and the impacts that can be achieved.

The website includes an interactive tool designed to share learning from this programme. There is also information on the Community Research and Engagement Network (COREN), a key element of the programme that sought to forge more equal relationships between system players, as well as a range of other resources.

Case studies

Each of the nine hyper-local neighbourhoods demonstrated impacts on local causes of health inequalities that the programme was attempting to change for the better. The case studies demonstrate how social connectedness was increased in Blackburn with Darwen, Haslingden and Ellesmere Port; how action was planned to improve housing issues and the challenges encountered in Blackpool; and how local voices across the system in Moss Bay and Salterbeck in Cumbria improved employment prospects. In Preston, Ellesmere Port, Knowsley, Blackburn with Darwen and Liverpool environments were improved through action on alleyways, community gardens, routes to schools and air quality. People working together across the neighbourhood system contributed to the local economy by enhancing the role of the High Street in Liverpool and improving knowledge of avoiding and dealing with debt and managing personal finances in Sefton. Finally, co-creating stories that enabled people to recognise their shared interests and beliefs contributed to effective collective action for change in Cumbria, Knowsley and Haslingden.