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Building a Research Ready Community in Halton

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Our Research Ready Communities (RRC) programme aims to increase equitable access to health research amongst under-represented groups. Over 2 years ago the Clinical Research Network, North West Coast  (CRN:NWC) took part in a competitive funding call that resulted in three sites being selected to pilot the Research Ready Communities programme: Blackpool, Brixton, and Doncaster. After the successful completion of the pilot sites, the programme has expanded nationally.

A Research Ready Community project has now started in Halton and Runcorn. Annie Allt, a research engagement officer at CRN:NWC is the project lead of the Research Ready Community project which commenced in June 2023 and talks about the project: "We have successfully recruited six research ready community champions who all live locally. Our aim is to work together collaboratively with Power in Partnership, and other local organisations to reduce health inequalities that impact them where they live, by making our research opportunities more accessible to their local communities. Our champions worked co – productively to identify areas of health that they agreed affected them the most, they included: isolation and loneliness, diabetes, heart conditions, addiction, sexual health, depression and mental health well- being. It is important to take our research opportunities right into the heart of our under-served communities. One of the ways we have achieved this is by using our mobile research unit (research bus) as our team can provide information which helps communities to find out about what health research is, how it can benefit them, and how to take part in and shape research. The research champions have helped us promote the research bus visits into the community. " 

Chris Carlin, Transformation Manager at Halton Place, Cheshire and Merseyside ICB, is a project sponsor and said "If we are ever going to reduce health inequalities, for those most under-served, then we have to be with them, understand them and respect them. The Research Ready Communities project is a platform to do this, so well done to all of those involved."

The research champions who are part of the project have been part of the care system and also view the project as opportunity to help progress opportunities beyond health. Clare Bradbury is Chief Executive Officer of Power in Partnership and said "already three research champions from the project have gained employment, many good things have come out this project. This is such a visionary and innovative project which I feel is just groundbreaking in its reach to young people who are not usually consulted or involved in research . Yet the first indications are that this is a powerful method of engagement not only for these who are quite marginalised  in society but also for the champions themselves in
self development. "

In August 2023 our research champions had the opportunity to go to Halton Clinical Research Unit (HCRU) and talk to the NIHR research team about working together and they had some early discussions about how they might be able to work with young care leavers in research in a more positive way. Some of the topics that the group want to see prioritised are diabetes, heart conditions, drug and alcohol addiction, contraception, housing complications, loneliness and isolation. With a strong, established relationship with CRN, the team at HCRU are looking forward to working more with our Community Champions and having further conversations in the weeks and months to come, with more detailed discussions around their lived experience as young care leavers. 

Our champions have continued to grow in their research development practice, to date our champions have taken part in two  research studies. Their first experience of participating in a research study was with Imperial College London’s Loneliness Study. Our research champions took part in completing the questionnaire for this study, answering a series of questions about loneliness.  More recently, we were able to bring the research bus to Grangeway Commuity Centre in Halton. Thirty members of the public took part in study called "i Detect -AF " run by the University of Liverpool. Members of the local community and our champions were able to access a ‘free lifestyle’ that measured blood pressure, heart rate,  height, weight, body mass index and further tests, where appropriate, as part of a study looking to find undetected atrial fibrillation. 

We have captured our journey so far, for those young people involved in the Research Ready Communities project. Please click here to view a short film about the project.