What is stopping health research reaching the people who need it most?
Researcher, Public EngagementWellcome
People with fewer educational qualifications are just as interested in health research, even if they engage less with it, Wellcome Monitor finds. Could engagement practices themselves be a barrier to inclusive engagement?
Wellcome funded a project with The Liminal Space, an art and design innovation consultancy, to change this. The project, called Night Club, saw sleep researchers from the University of Oxford leave the lab for the Co-op’s warehouses. It connected night workers and their employers with findings from sleep research to help them work healthier night shifts. People engaged with research and experienced the value it could bring to their lives.
Other projects are taking a similar approach.
Prostate cancer affects twice as many black men compared to other men in the UK. The Centre for BME Health and PROSTaid ran a dominoes tournament where they brought clinical geneticists and clinical nurse specialists as speakers. The project allowed black men to learn about prostate cancer and have a discussion in an informal and familiar setting.
Wellcome Monitor report, a nationally-representative survey of the public’s attitudes to science and health topics, challenges this assumption.
It finds that regardless of education, people are equally interested in finding out about health research – 29% of those with a degree were very interested in health research, as were 30% with no qualifications.
This is not the case for engagement – 86% of people with degrees have engaged with health research compared to only 69% of people with no qualifications.
Should people be considered unengaged if they are just as interested? Or are they being underserved by research institutions and engagement practices?
If research is going to improve health for all, we need inclusive public engagement
Given only 1 in 3 people feel that scientists care about their views, there is more work to be done. We, as the research community and public engagement practitioners, can do more to support marginalised groups. To ensure research translates to better health for all, we need inclusive engagement with research as much as we need inclusive research.