10 December 2013 16:41

A Lancaster University Professor will head up a research team examining if giving people greater control over their lives and community can positively affect their health and wellbeing.

Professor of Sociology and Public Health at Lancaster University Jennie Popay will lead a major evaluation funded by the National Institute for Health Research’s School for Public Health Research (NIHR SPHR). 

The research is being undertaken by LiLaC, a collaboration between the Universities of Liverpool and Lancaster, in partnership with fellow SPHR member institutions including the universities of Bristol, Cambridge, Exeter, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and FUSE, a collaboration of universities in NE England. 

The focus of the research is an initiative called Big Local, run by Local Trust and partners and funded by the Big Lottery Fund with an investment of more than £200million.

Big Local is happening in 150 communities across England over the next 15 years. It provides residents in each community with at least £1m and a range of other support and funding to develop ways of improving their neighbourhoods.

Past research suggests greater individual and collective control can improve health and wellbeing and low levels of control may be a significant cause of inequalities in health.  However, there is very little evidence about effective ways to support greater individual and collective control and its impact on health.

Professor Popay addressed a special event in London this week organised by Local Trust, attended by policy makers and national organisations including the Big Lottery Fund as well as residents from areas receiving funding.

Speaking about the planned research, Professor Popay said: “There are major gaps in the current evidence on potential health benefits of initiatives that support greater community control.  Local Trust should be commended for agreeing to this independent evaluation of the impact of Big Local on the wider social determinants of health of local populations and on health inequalities more broadly.” 

Chief Executive of Local Trust Debbie Ladds added: "We are delighted to announce that SPHR will be working with us and Big Local areas to carry out this research. We hope that Big Local will create an opportunity to produce new learning about how to reduce health inequalities through giving residents greater control over things that matter to them. We hope to use this research to influence how charities, funders and local and national Government work to support communities in the future."