Communities in Control Study

9226-8005This research funded under the SPHR health inequalities programme involves an evaluation of a Lottery funded initiative that aims to give residents living in disadvantaged areas control over action to improve their neighborhood.  

Who is undertaking the research?

The research is being undertaken by LiLaC in partnership with fellow SPHR member institutions including the universities of Cambridge, Sheffield, Exeter, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and FUSE, a collaboration of universities in North East England.  The overall project is led by Professor Jennie Popay at the University of Lancaster.

Why has this research been developed?

The most important driver for this evaluation is the growing body of evidence that low control may be a fundamental cause of inequalities in health. However, there is little evidence about effective ways to support greater control and impacts on health and virtually none focusing on the impact of health and its social determinants of communities having greater control over action aimed at neighbourhood improvements. Intervention studies on the effects of purposeful attempts to enhance control are rare, typically look at control at the individual level, are often poor quality and fail to assess differential impact between social groups. Given the growing body of research suggesting that enhanced collective control can make a significant contribution to improving health and reducing health inequalities, the lack of evidence on effective ways to support greater control by communities needs to be addressed urgently.

What is Big Local?

Big Local is run by Local Trust and funded by the Big Lottery Fund with an investment of more than £200million. Big Local is taking place 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. Big Local has the potential to improve health by focusing on important determinants (e.g. environment, poverty, and social cohesion) and aims to do this by increasing the control residents have over actions to improve their neighbourhoods.

Click here to watch Jennie Popay, LiLaC and Debbie Ladds, Chief Executive of Local Trust talking about this research.

How will the research be carried out?

The research is being undertaken in two phases. Phase 1 of the research started in January 2014 and aims to:

  • Identify early learning for public health practice and residents in Big Local areas about effective ways to support community empowerment/control in neighbourhoods experiencing social/economic disadvantage.
  • Assess the feasibility of evaluating the impact of Big Local on health and wellbeing in the longer term. If a Phase 2 outcome evaluation is judged to be feasible it will begin in the summer of 2015.
  • Develop methods for evaluating complex area based initiatives such as Big Local.

What will the research provide?

Outputs from the research relevant to public health practice will include practical resources focusing on:

  • The links between collective control and health inequalities;
  • Factors influencing public health actions in low income neighbourhoods;
  • Lessons about community engagement/empowerment for policy and practice;
  • Guidance for small area monitoring systems;

SPHR researchers are also working with Local Trust and local residents during the research to produce practical resources to support neighbourhoods.

Further information

Jennie Popay


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