Wakefield Council has secured £5 million in funding for a five-year research initiative aimed at gaining deeper insights into the factors contributing to the poorer health of residents in the district compared to those in other parts of the country.

The findings from this research will be instrumental in enhancing comprehension and shaping the future delivery of local services, with the goal of fostering healthier lives among residents.

Cllr Denise Jeffery, Leader of Wakefield Council, expressed enthusiasm, stating, “This news is incredibly positive for our district. Although Wakefield is a fantastic place to live, unfortunately, many residents still face challenges in reaching retirement age in good health. This funding will empower us to address this issue by providing a more profound understanding of the factors influencing our residents’ health and wellbeing, ultimately enabling us to deliver impactful services that make a real difference to our communities.”

Wakefield is among the 11 recipients of funding to establish a Health Determinants Research Collaboration (HDRC) from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR). The research programme will be formally known as NIHR HDRC Wakefield.

In collaboration with Leeds Beckett University, Sheffield Hallam University, St George’s Community Centre, and Prosper Wakefield, the Council will implement the research initiative. The programme will be closely linked to the ‘Born and Bred in Wakefield’ research study, which has already enlisted nearly 2,000 mothers and babies, aiming to eventually recruit 60% of all babies born in Mid-Yorkshire Teaching Hospitals each year.

Professor James Woodall, of Leeds Beckett University, said: “We are delighted to be working with Wakefield Council to develop the new Health Determinants Research Collaboration. Building research capacity and skills in local government means that decision makers in the Wakefield district will be able to focus even more on the right services and the right outcomes for all of their residents.”

The funding will allow the partnership to work closely with communities to understand what is already strong and works for them. It will also give residents the chance to make their own decisions about health and care and will ensure the Council and its partners focus more on the right priorities and outcomes for all Wakefield residents.

Jo Webster, Wakefield District Health and Care Partnership Accountable Officer, said: “Tackling health inequalities is at the heart of what our health and care system is here to do so it is great that we have received this funding to help tackle the unfair and avoidable differences in health between different groups of people.”

A key part of the programme will see St George’s Community Centre and Prosper Wakefield involving residents and communities in the research. Residents will have the opportunity to become community journalists and researchers, developing skills to work with their own community to find out more about their health needs.

Berni O’Brien of St George’s Community Centre, Lupset, said: “We are really excited to be a partner in this programme. Our previous studies have shown that peer-to-peer research works well, with residents feeling more comfortable sharing important issues with someone like themselves. We are looking forward to supporting residents to train as community researchers and journalists, giving them the skills to find out more about the issues that are important to their communities’ health and wellbeing.”