CHPR Blog December 2018 – Louise Warwick-Booth, James Woodall, Anne-Marie Bagnall and Jane South
We recently held a small gathering of former colleagues, friends and supporters to celebrate the 21st birthday of the Centre for Health Promotion Research. This was an opportunity to review the diverse range of research projects that we have carried out over the years, through the creation of themed Storyboards. Our research has explored transport, schools, prisons, health trainers, communities and gender, using theory, various methods and evidence synthesis. These themes look very disparate at first glance but are tied together by our focus on inequalities, health and vulnerabilities as well as by our methodological approach and commitment to ensuring participation and voice within the research process. All too often this is not the dominant ‘way’ and we are frequently reminded of this in many contexts.
The very first Director of the Centre, Professor Sylvia Tilford, discussed how it all started, the core principles of the Centre at the very beginning, and the type of research that was undertaken, as well as the ways in which the research was linked to teaching – the department has been providing health promotion education for over 40 years. It was very striking how little has changed in terms of the values that underpin our approach, however there are many challenges that still remain for the discipline itself, within a changing environment (see https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0017896918784072).
Professor Jane Wills from London South Bank (http://www.lsbu.ac.uk/about-us/people/people-finder/prof-jane-wills) spoke about the ways in which health promotion has been reshaped within higher education, with many departments in England no longer existing in the way that we do. She also noted that our values in relation to participatory research, and broader academic questions of where the discipline ‘fits’ create publication challenges. Despite this we continue to work to add to the evidence base with publications such as papers, toolkits, reports, books and conference presentations.
During the event, we acknowledged the importance of partnership work in our approach, as well as the team effort our success depends on. This should not be underestimated in an academic environment that rewards individualism. Consequently, all too often small research centres disappear as staff change roles and move on. Hence the importance of marking our 21 years.
Our celebration also involved a cake displaying the image of the seminal Ottawa Charter which underpins the discipline of health promotion (https://www.who.int/healthpromotion/conferences/previous/ottawa/en/), which was cut by Sylvia (right) as first Director and Louise (left), as the present Director.