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Hundreds pledge to tackle region’s health inequalities through research

Hundreds pledge to tackle region’s health inequalities through research
Collaboration is the key to boosting the quality of health research, according to leaders speaking at a recent healthcare event.

The region is renowned for some of the best hospitals and researchers in the country, yet suffers from some of the biggest health inequalities and poorest life expectancy. A recent report warns life expectancy in England has stalled over the last decade, and reversed for women, particularly in the North East.

Providing inclusive research opportunities which supports local communities, and is open to those less represented, can help patients and the public benefit from better health and social care services.

To help identify how to improve the gaps in health and social research, the NIHR Clinical Research Network North East and North Cumbria brought together over 250 people from a range of healthcare, public sector and academia backgrounds for the ‘Mind the Gap, Tackling Research Inequality’ event.

Alice Wiseman, Director of Public Health, Gateshead Council, stated: “It is completely unacceptable that two babies born today, can have as much as a ten year difference in life expectancy as a direct result of the circumstances into which they are born.

“Despite much dedicated work over recent decades, inequalities in entirely preventable disease remain stubbornly persistent.

“Research methods can play a critical role in helping us to understand the lived experience, giving some of our communities a much needed voice,” she added.

Professor Caroline Wroe, Clinical Director at the NIHR Clinical Research Network North East and North Cumbria, said: “We have a wealth of research experience in the region, and it’s vital we use this expertise to address the gaps when it comes to reducing inequalities within health and social care research.

“I am delighted to be here alongside experts in public health from across the region, to start to work collaboratively, and discuss how we can best support our local community and provide inclusive research opportunities.”

“With an evolving research delivery landscape, this day highlighted many of the upcoming changes we need to consider in delivering inclusive health and care research across the region. By removing obstacles, we can gain a better understanding of where patients and the public are falling between the gaps, and focus our efforts on reducing research inequalities.”

Stephen Kirkham, a Patient Representative, who received a heart transplant at the Freeman Hospital, spoke of his experience of being involved in heart disease research.

“I owe my life to over 60 years of medical research carried out by scientists, researchers, pioneers and innovators,” Stephen explains.

“From the first heart/lung machine in 1953, to the first successful British heart transplants in 1982. Today some 89% of heart transplant patients survive the first year.

“For myself, nearly 5 years post-transplant, I give thanks for all that brilliant work because without it I couldn’t have received my life-saving donated heart in 2015,” he adds.

Key themes discussed at the event - which took place on Wednesday 4th March at the Hilton Hotel, Gateshead - included how research can be developed outside of the NHS, a forecast into the future of health and care research, and how local projects are targeting under-served groups.

To learn more about health and social research, visit: or the Be Part of Research website: