6 July 2021 

We are delighted to announce funding for four Community Involvement Projects led by researchers from the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Behavioural Science and Evaluation (HPRU in BSE) at University of Bristol.

The projects were chosen for their innovative approach to involving diverse groups in health research and for their alignment with the HPRU’s current research priorities. 

Winning projects were selected in collaboration with members of our Public Advisory Group. They include the following projects:

  • Maternal Vaccination in the NHS (MAVIS) Study – engagement with Black mothers low in vaccine confidence: Emma Anderson (lead researcher) with Christie Cabral, Noreen Hopewell-Kelly, and Julie Clayton. Fully funded: £9,980.
  • Engaging the farming community in zoonotic disease research: Amy Thomas (lead researcher) with Ellen Brooks Pollock. Fully funded: £2,712.
  • ‘Hold the door open’ – involving older adults from diverse backgrounds in health research: Taru Silvonen (lead researcher) with Hannah Christensen. Partially funded: £6,308.
  • Facilitating the inclusion of voices of under-represented groups in the work of the HPRU (pilot): Sarah Denford and Rosie Essery (lead researchers) with Harriet Fisher, Emma Anderson, Shoba Dawson and Alex Martin. Pilot funding: £1,000.

Dr Gemma Lasseter, Programme Manager for the HPRU in BSE, said: “We designed the community involvement scheme to help enable HPRU BSE researchers to engage with underserved communities. Our hope is that the four funded projects will establish meaningful relationships with these communities, taking time to identify what’s important to these patient and public groups.”

Dr Noreen Hopewell-Kelly, Research Fellow (Patient and Public Involvement) at the HPRU in BSE, said: “I and the HPRU Public Advisory Group (PAG) are really excited to be supporting such innovative and important public involvement at the HPRU. Each of these projects demonstrates a commitment to develop and embed quality involvement in research, collaboratively and meaningfully.”

More about the projects

The MAVIS Study – Dr Emma Anderson 

The MAVIS Study explores national maternal vaccination, focusing on pertussis (whooping cough) delivered in maternity care, aiming to inform policy and interventions to improve coverage and reduce inequity of protection. 

It is vital for mothers with low vaccine confidence and those from underserved communities to be represented in this research if is to achieve its intended impact on addressing inequity. This community involvement project will:

  • engage especially with Black mothers who are unconfident about vaccination to form an advisory group;
  • co-produce research design and delivery, particularly to maximise recruitment, ask the right questions, communicate with underserved communities, and inform intervention and policy recommendations;
  • offer return benefits to the community and establish links for future opportunities.

Engaging the farming community in zoonotic disease research – Dr Amy Thomas

The farming community is a unique cohort of individuals who are often underrepresented in community involvement panels. Their occupation does not lend itself easily to involvement in research due to long, inflexible working hours and living in isolated, rural communities.

Bovine TB is a sensitive subject and hugely negatively impacts on the mental health and wellbeing of farmers. We want to hear farmers’ views on TB and involve them in improving communication between farmers, the scientific community and policy makers. 

The aims of this project are to:

  • embed farming community representatives into zoonotic TB research
  • gain insight into regular practices and frequented places 
  • gain approval of the farming community for our study design
  • recruit two farmers to meet with the study team on a monthly basis
  • invite the farmers to co-create study documentation and study design
  • invite the farmers to attend the sampling days.

‘Hold the door open’ – involving older adults from diverse backgrounds in health research – Dr Taru Silvonen

There is a general underrepresentation of older adults and people from minority ethnic backgrounds in patient and public involvement in health research. We hope to ‘hold the door open’ by inviting older people from diverse backgrounds to community involvement activities. We have three objectives for our project:

  1. To engage with people from diverse backgrounds aged 55+ through community organisations in five areas across the UK (South of England, Midlands-North, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales), subject to travel restrictions.
  2. To consult the target group by using a questionnaire to capture people’s preferences for community involvement activities they would like to be involved in.
  3. To co-design research dissemination activities during five workshops and co-delivery of five community-based dissemination events based on objective 2.

The proposed activities will inform a broader discussion of how to involve people from diverse backgrounds aged 55+ in health research and how to improve access to face-to-face and other research-related activities for this age group.

Facilitating the inclusion of voices of under-represented groups in the work of the HPRU (pilot) – Dr Sarah Denford and Dr Rosie Essery

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted certain population groups, including people belonging to minority ethnic and low-income groups. In developing the national response to COVID and any future health emergencies, it is vital that their views are included. However, these groups are often underrepresented in research and health service provision. Without pre-existing relationships, in an emergency situation in which rapid research is essential, their voices risk exclusion. 

In this project we will:

  • identify and cultivate existing partnerships between community organisations, groups and networks to facilitate the inclusion of voices and perspectives of under-represented groups in the HPRU’s work;
  • identify and collate information about existing relationships between members of the HPRU and diverse community organisations and communities;
  • work with diverse stakeholders to understand key research priorities that are important to them, and to understand how we can work collaboratively in a mutually beneficial way.

Further information

About the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit [HPRU] in Behavioural Science and Evaluation at the University of Bristol 

The NIHR HPRU in Behavioural Science and Evaluation at University of Bristol is one of 14 HPRUs across England, part of a £58.7 million investment by the NIHR to protect the health of the nation. 

The NIHR HPRU in Behavioural Science and Evaluation is a partnership between Public Health England and University of Bristol, in collaboration with MRC Biostatistics Research Unit at the University of Cambridge and University of the West of England. 

Each NIHR HPRU undertakes high quality research that is used by PHE to keep the public safe from current and emerging public health threats.

About the NIHR 

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is the nation’s largest funder of health and care research. The NIHR:

  • funds, supports and delivers high quality research that benefits the NHS, public health and social care
  • engages and involves patients, carers and the public in order to improve the reach, quality and impact of research
  • attracts, trains and supports the best researchers to tackle the complex health and care challenges of the future
  • invests in world-class infrastructure and a skilled delivery workforce to translate discoveries into improved treatments and services
  • partners with other public funders, charities and industry to maximise the value of research to patients and the economy.

The NIHR was established in 2006 to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research, and is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. In addition to its national role, the NIHR supports applied health research for the direct and primary benefit of people in low- and middle-income countries, using UK aid from the UK government.