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West Midlands Knowledge and Action Partnership for Race Equity

Tackling health inequalities within ethnic minority communities

A West Midlands university-community partnership led by Associate Professor Abimbola Ayorinde, Warwick Medical School, is working to include marginalised ethnic seven communities in discussions about addressing health and wellbeing priorities and inequalities, by forming The West Midlands Knowledge and Action Partnership for Race Equity. Through this collaboration, the partnership mission is to find solutions for problems in health and wellbeing equity and achieve better outcomes for ethnic minority communities.

Partnerships in knowledge and action

In Britain, groups of people facing hardship, those socially marginalised, or ethnic minorities, have frequently been missed or misunderstood in health research and face health inequalities. To provide new insights and actions on the causes of health inequality, the National Institute for Health Research – School for Public Health Research (NIHR SPHR) funded the CLARITY project to build knowledge partnerships with minority ethnic groups, those who have been involved in the criminal justice system, those living in ‘left behind’ coastal or rural communities, and those living with a learning disability.

Building knowledge partnerships with minority ethnic groups

To establish knowledge partnerships with minority ethnic communities, Abimbola’s team including Research Fellow Raheela Shaikh, initially needed to identify community groups who are willing to be involved and build trust within these networks to develop a partnership. This involved attending meetings organised by the groups and holding partnership meetings at community spaces. Such as Coventry Central Hall – a not-for-profit centre that brings community groups together – as several small community groups used this space as their community hub and Tipton Muslim Community Centre.

Rather than approach these groups with a traditional evidence-based research question, the researchers had meetings with the groups and listened to often unheard voices, asked them which issues they wanted to discuss, discussed what should be researched and, most importantly to the groups, what actions should be put in place. The aim was that listening to first hand experiences would provide new insights into the causes and experiences of health inequalities, with the hope that this might lead to innovative actions and initiatives within public health care.

The West Midlands Knowledge and Action Partnership for Race Equity

Through spending time developing relationships built on respect and trust with seven community groups, Abimbola’s team established a framework for collaboration and knowledge sharing, which developed into The West Midlands Knowledge and Action Partnership for Race Equity. This university-community partnership is now collaborating to foster mutual learning, research, and community development for ethnic minority groups, guided by principles of inclusivity, transparency and advancing knowledge for the betterment of the community. With the founding community partners serving as a steering committee, the partnership has now opened to involve more community organisations, groups, service providers, researchers, and policy makers.

Piloting a framework for evaluating community initiatives

Having established a strong partnership with a clear purpose, the CLARITY project team has secured further NIHR SPHR funding for a new phase of research, and the team has chosen to explore how knowledge partnerships can measure the success of community led initiatives. These initiatives support mental health, well-being and health priorities, but are often not evaluated in terms of impact. The hope is that by developing a pilot evaluation framework for health and wellbeing impact, other community groups will be empowered to share knowledge of successes and how to better access external support.

One of the main things that is different about this project is that the researcher herself has come into the community rather than meeting with just the heads of services and getting a professional view. They are coming into the centre, speaking with the people, gaining their personal views and experiences, and finding out what affects them on a personal level. Nothing is lost in translation.

Shazia, Bangladeshi Women’s Association

Founding community partners of West Midlands Knowledge and Action Partnership for Race Equity: Aston Dars group, Bangladeshi Women’s Association, British National Overseas, Coventry Central Hall, Coventry Empowered African Women Group, Maxival Recruitment & Training Consultancy, UK Islamic Mission - Alum Rock.