University details TLC research findings at conference

The University of Bedfordshire has unveiled the findings of a recent research project which investigated solutions to help tackle inequalities around Covid-19 in the local community.

The Covid-19 Talk Listen Change (TLC) community engagement project for Tackling Inequalities and Co-Developing Solutions in Luton was a study conducted by the University’s Institute for Health Research (IHR), commissioned by Luton Borough Council.

Led by Dr Nasreen Ali, Reader in Public Health Equality, the findings were announced at a Postgraduate Public Health conference was held at the University’s Luton campus at the end of the academic term.

The conference was also opened by Jim McManus, Director of Public Health at Hertfordshire County Council and Interim President of the Association of Directors of Public Health. Speakers from Luton Borough Council included Sally Cartwright, the Director of Public Health, and Chimeme Egbutah, Public Health Service Manager for Health Inequalities. The conference was chaired by Gurch Randhawa, Professor of Diversity in Public Health and Director of IHR at the University.

The aim of the TLC project was to engage with Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Indian, Black African and Black Caribbean communities in Luton and explore the reasons for the disproportionate impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on these groups.

The research took place during 2020 and 2021 and methods of data collection included focus groups, interviews and a community survey – taking on an inclusive research approach to hear from lesser heard voices and to give them an opportunity to share their lived experiences.

Dr Ali said: “It was great to see that this year’s Postgraduate Public Health Conference generated so much interest from our MSc Public Health and PhD students, members of the Faculty and members of the local community. The speakers highlighted how real-life research can impact policy and practice towards tackling health inequalities and also discussed routes and personal journeys into public health careers.”

The findings of the research include a varied level of understand in how Covid-19 is spread, the impact on mental health and reasons behind vaccine hesitancy.

As a result of this, Luton Borough Council has developed an 18-point action plan focused around four themes, including improving mental health and enhancing access to physical activity.

The findings of the project have also resulted in plans for a Luton-wide multimedia 6-month campaign on the ‘5 Ways to Wellbeing’ – co-designed with residents of the town and surrounding areas.

Sally Cartwright, Director of Public Health at Luton Borough Council, said: “It was great to be a part of the postgraduate conference, to meet some of the students and share some of the collaborative work we are doing, as well as discuss some of the other key areas of work for us in public health in Luton. It’s fantastic to help support the professional development of up and coming public health professionals.”

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