The project – titled Innovate – is one of 16 initiatives to have secured funding as part of the second phase of the £26 million UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Mobilising Community Assets to Tackle Health Inequalities investment.
Funded primarily by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the programme aims to use existing local resources to create a fairer and healthier society.
Innovate, a multi-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder partnership, led by Professor Anuj Kapilashrami, from the University of Essex’s School of Health and Social Care, will focus on mid and south Essex - a region with some of the most deprived areas and highest burden of mental health problems in England.
Academics from across the University will work with NHS Mid and South Essex Integrated Care System, A Better Start Southend and MQ Mental Health Research to identify new ways to consider health inequalities in mental health and look at how these can be tackled with new insights, practical tools and approaches.
Professor Kapilashrami said: “This is a very timely opportunity to set up an exciting initiative that has the promise of changing the way we study and tackle regional inequalities in mental health.
“The project’s intersectional focus, use of diverse arts-based and other methods to understand local community assets and the creation of new tools for future research, can help inform a more responsive and people-centric health and social care system.”
Jeff Banks, Director of Strategic Partnerships at NHS Mid and South Essex Integrated Care System, said: “The challenge of tackling persistent health inequalities sits at the very heart of all that we do as a partnership, and we recognise that ensuring children and adults have good mental health, and consistent access to appropriate services and supports when they need them, is one of our biggest challenges. We know we cannot do this alone, and partnership projects such as this, are very much the way forward.”
Professor Helen Chatterjee, AHRC’s Health Inequalities Programme Director, said: “This programme is central to AHRC’s strategic vision and our longstanding commitment to taking an arts and humanities approach to creating a fairer and more equitable society.
“We must think carefully about how we utilise shared infrastructure and spaces to ensure that they are serving the entire community and playing their role in addressing inequality.
“It is exciting to consider how bringing together and rethinking the use of cultural assets in these regions might change health outcomes for their communities.”