The CHPR Blog- A Welcome and introduction

Welcome to Leeds Beckett’s, Centre for Health Promotion Research (CHPR) blog.  The CHPR was established in 1997 and has grown to be a centre of excellence, well regarded regionally and nationally in the public health field.  We conduct a broad range of health promotion research which addresses local, national and international issues, work in collaborative ways to enhance the evidence base for health promotion and are committed to supporting our local community. We understand health to be both social and political and we consequently work in ways to promote participation, equality and social justice. We are keen to share a sample of our work with you through this blog.

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Photo by Ghislain Berger 

So as a starting point, we pose the question ‘what makes health promotion research distinct?’  Health promotion research can be broad in scope and can cover a vast array of topics, settings and populations.  Just looking over the past few years, our Centre’s research portfolio includes studies focussing on prison health; volunteering and health; burnout in employees; e-cigarettes; physical activity in children; homelessness; mental health; condom distribution schemes; toothbrushing; self-care; poverty; climate change…..the list goes on.

While at first glance, these projects may seem completely disparate they all, in fact, constitute health promotion research.  For us, the litmus test is whether a research project gives us greater understanding of the determinants of health.  If a study has the potential to help understanding of health inequalities and (more importantly) potentially provide evidence-based policy and practice implications to reduce health inequalities in communities – then this, in our view, constitutes health promotion research.  Critics would argue that such a definition is useless as conceivably ‘anything’ and ‘everything’ can have impacts on health – but health promotion itself is a very broad-church, highly multidisciplinary, drawing on a range of academic disciplines.  Health promotion research, therefore, must mirror this.

While the focus of enquiry under the health promotion research rubric may be diverse, the underpinning value-base is very specific as far as we can see.  Indeed, health promotion research is characterised by crucial tenets like participation, co-construction, empowerment and enablement.  In a nutshell, it’s about doing research ‘with’ people and communities not ‘on’ communities.  The rhetoric of health promotion research is easy is to write and say, but far more challenging and demanding in reality.  However, the Centre for Health Promotion Research at Leeds Beckett University ‘walks the walk as well as talks the talk’.  As a brief illustrative example, staff have been involved in training individuals with complex health and social needs to be ‘peer researchers’.  This involves these individuals being equipped in research skills to interview other people that face similar health and social contexts.  As a research team, our rationale for such an approach was twofold.  Firstly, we believe that such an approach will provide rich and detailed data about lived experience – can researchers really empathise with individuals in social contexts so distant often from their own?  Our view in this study is that people who understand and share common experiences, coupled with being trained in research skills and competencies, is potentially a much more viable way of really understanding people’s views and thoughts.  Secondly, training lay individuals in research skills is empowering for those involved and can provide opportunities for confidence building, raising self-esteem as well as acquiring skills that can be transferred to other contexts (like applying for employment etc.).  Health promotion research that, through participation, has benefits for individuals and communities, strikes us as being a perfect scenario.

Albeit brief, we hope this short blog has given more insight into what health promotion research constitutes and what makes it distinct from other research approaches.  Our research centre has been successfully operating for the past 18 years and while our research has been diverse and assorted, staffs’ views on the values and philosophy of health promotion research has not wavered.

Dr James Woodall (Subject Group Head) and Dr Louise Warwick-Booth (Director of the Centre for Health Promotion Research)

 

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