Background To tackle complex public health challenges associated with the built environment we must understand issues in non-health disciplines such as urban planning, property development and transport.
The TRUUD project (‘Tackling Root causes Upstream of Unhealthy Urban Development’) seeks to understand how health and wellbeing is considered in urban development decision-making, and develop interventions to influence healthier place-making. A key aspect involves Researchers-in-Residence working in partner local authorities to learn about decision-making through a live case study, and to support co-produced interventions. While the Researcher-in-Residence model is increasingly used in public health research this presentation explores how it can facilitate public health improvements through working with non-health stakeholders.
Methods ALG is a part time Researcher-in-Residence in Bristol City Council (2.5 days/week, October 2020 – September 2024), based in the council’s Regeneration team, working on a large urban development project, with links to other relevant service areas such as planning policy and public health.
The embedded research incorporates participant-observation as a form of ethnographic research. Working protocols were co-produced to gain trust and access situations with potential political, commercial and reputational sensitivities. Analysis of field notes and reflections identifies issues that influence urban development decision-making. These insights are shared with multi-disciplinary TRUUD researchers and facilitates co-production of interventions with Bristol City Council colleagues. Finally, it involves evaluation and refinement of interventions.
Results The Researcher-in-Residence role provides on-going opportunity to learn about decision-making for new urban development, while also acting as a complex intervention.
Participant-observation has identified a main theme of power between local government actors, private sector developers, and local communities. On-going work explores how community involvement can engage diverse views and what impact such engagement can have on built environment decision-making.
An example of co-produced interventions, facilitated by the Researcher-in-Residence, is modelling health economic impacts of different features of the built environment. This will be used in scenario testing for the case study development project and the Researcher-in-Residence will evaluate how this data impacts on decision-making.
Discussion This example demonstrates how Researchers-in-Residence can be used to tackle issues associated with environmental determinants of health. Although it is a single example of this approach, it demonstrates how acting as an observer, broker, facilitator and participant Researchers-in-Residence can strengthen research collaborations, explore important issues in depth, and facilitate relevant and timely research through co-production, as well as being a constant reminder to academic colleagues of the need for impactful and pragmatic research.
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