Professor Chris Whitty, the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) lead, recently met with Salford experts in Public Health to learn about their research experiences. Professor Penny Cook and Liz Burns, were recent guests of the Chief Scientific Advisor who was interested in the CICA programme and their findings.
Professor Dame Anne Johnson, Chair of UK Strategic Co-ordinating Body for Health of the Public Research, and Honorary Professor Kate Ardern, Lead Director of Public Health for Greater Manchester for Alcohol and Drugs, also took part in the event. Significantly, they met at Greenslate Community Farm in Wigan. Greenslate Community Farm is a farm build and run by the community. It is the setting for an innovative rehabilitation programme. Here, people in recovery from alcohol and substance use can volunteer as part of their recovery journey.
Funding innovative public health programmes
After a tour of the farm, Chris and Penny discussed the University of Salford’s five-year NIHR funded evaluation programme. Together, they reflected on the process from funding announcement, through bid development, to delivery of the research. A substantial area of interest was how to engage communities in public health research. Chris was keen to gauge Penny’s opinion on the NIHR Public Health Research Programme. He was interested to know what the NIHR could do to encourage more funding applications to evaluate community-based interventions like CICA, particularly those that benefit the most health-deprived populations in the north.
Penny said: “it was a privilege to have the opportunity to elaborate on our research with Professor Whitty. He was genuinely interested in our ideas to stimulate more research around innovative interventions to alleviate complex public health issues.”
The pioneering CICA model trains local volunteers to become accredited ‘Alcohol Health Champions’. The champions are then able to advise family, friends and colleagues to rethink their drinking habits with the aim of reducing alcohol harm across Greater Manchester. The University of Salford, with the University of Bristol and the University of York, have received funding from the NIHR to carry out outcome, cost-consequences and process analyses of the CICA scheme.