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Public Health Wales selected to take part in a programme on understanding the impact of COVID-19 on service change and health inequalities

Published: Monday 23rd November 2020

Public Health Wales has been selected by the Health Foundation, an independent charity committed to bringing about better health and health care for people in the UK, to be part of its new COVID-19 research programme. The programme is seeking to understand the impact of the pandemic in two distinct areas:

  • how health and social care service delivery has changed in light of COVID-19
  • the impact of COVID-19 on health inequalities and the wider determinants of health.

The research programme is supporting 10 teams from across the UK with grants of between £100,000 and £200,000. Each project will run for up to 12 months.

Each team is multidisciplinary, combining expertise from a broad range of disciplines and involving patients, the public and/or people with lived experiences.

The project led by Public Health Wales in partnership with the University of Bristol and the Wales Centre for Voluntary Action (WCVA) aims to understand the role of community-led action as a protective factor against widening health inequalities during, and in recovery from, the COVID-19 pandemic.

The project team will interview people who provided (community members), received (those self-isolating or shielding), and coordinated (voluntary organisations) community support, and will carry out an online national survey of volunteers. The aim is to find out what factors contributed to strong community-led action, and how this support addressed the needs of the most vulnerable within the community.

The project will also look at how community-led action can help with addressing inequalities in health; how new and existing community-led action be sustained and effectively integrated into the health, third sector, and social support system; and whether social media data can provide insights into the levels of need and community-led action across Wales in real-time.

Dr Charlotte Grey, Public Health Researcher from Public Health Wales said: “This is an exciting opportunity to build on our community resilience research programme and in partnership with the University of Bristol and the Wales Council for Voluntary Action to map out what community wellbeing was like across Wales during the pandemic. Further, we will explore in greater depth how communities supported each other through the first wave of COVID-19, what motivated community volunteers, and how we can help support communities to make sure this positive action continues and grows”.

Dr Alisha Davies, Head of Research & Evaluation in Public Health Wales said: “The insights gained from the project will be used to ensure that community-led action can be supported to help protect against the longer-term differences in the health, social and economic impact of COVID-19 across local areas”.

Dr Jennifer Dixon, Chief Executive of the Health Foundation, said:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has led to huge and rapid changes to the way that health and social care is delivered. The pandemic has also magnified pre-existing health inequalities in this country.

“This grant programme investigates these two areas. Are the changes in services beneficial and how did rapid change in provision happen? And what can we learn from the disproportionate effect COVID had on certain population groups? The aim is to use these insights to help future policy and service delivery decisions that could benefit the population.”