Leeds Beckett University’s research expertise is set to improve health outcomes in Wakefield thanks to £1.25million funding to help tackle health inequalities in the city.
The funding is part of a £5 million Health Determinants Research Collaboration (HDRC) grant to Wakefield Council. The research partnership will also involve Sheffield Hallam University, St George’s Community Centre, and Prosper Wakefield.
The council will use the money to examine why people living in the district have poorer health than those living in other parts of the country.
The healthy life expectancy – the average number of years a person would expect to live in good health – of men in the city is only 59, which is five years below the England rate.
Professor James Woodall, head of subject (Health Promotion and Health, Nutrition and Environment) in the School of Health at Leeds Beckett University, said: “I am delighted that the School of Health is supporting Wakefield’s ambitions to improve public health in this community.
“Our high-quality research and support for evidence-based decision-making improve health outcomes and reduce inequalities like those in Wakefield.”
The work will draw upon and add to the expertise at Leeds Beckett, which is improving health outcomes for people across the country. Leeds Beckett research is driving changes in dementia services and cancer care and reducing obesity, as well as identifying and addressing health inequalities faced by women, minority groups, and prisoners.
The Wakefield research will focus on the entrenched inequalities between the city and the rest of the UK, including:
- Premature mortality from cardiovascular disease is 51.9/100,000 in men, persistently higher than the England rate.
- Mortality from respiratory disease in people under 75 stands at 41.9/100,000, compared to 29.4/100.
- In Wakefield’s most deprived communities, a third of adults smoke, and 14.7% of pregnant women were still smoking in 2021/22.
Leeds Beckett’s Professor Woodall and Professor Jane South will support more effective, evidence-based decision-making within the council to reduce these health inequalities.
The funding will allow Leeds Beckett to embed two researchers to work across Wakefield alongside a current researcher and two PhD students. These researchers will increase the council’s capacity to generate, translate, and share research findings related to the wider determinants of health in Wakefield. They will also build research capacity in the community and voluntary sector in the city and support local people to become researchers and research champions.
Wakefield is one of 11 applicants to be awarded funding to establish an HDRC from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR).
Cllr Denise Jeffery, Leader of Wakefield Council, said: “This is such welcome news for our district. The Wakefield district is a wonderful place to live, but sadly, it’s still the case that many of our residents will not reach retirement age in good health. This funding will help us to change that by giving us greater insight into what affects our residents’ health and wellbeing and ultimately allowing us to deliver services to our communities that really make a difference.”
The research programme will be known formally as NIHR HDRC Wakefield. The funding will allow the partnership to work closely with communities to understand what is already strong and works for them. It will also give residents the chance to make their own decisions about health and care and will ensure the Council and its partners focus more on the right priorities and outcomes for all Wakefield residents.