New Lincolnshire research on inequalities impacting health and life expectancy
The funding injection from the UK Research and Innovation's (UKRI) Expanding Excellence in England will provide the resources to scale up the existing Lincoln International Institute of Rural Health, enabling it to be transformed into the Lincoln Institute for Rural and Coastal Health (LIRCH).
This will be the country's first integrated and multi-disciplinary research institute dedicated to bringing together rural and coastal health and wellbeing research to help tackle the place-based inequalities experienced in these communities.
Rural and coastal communities, which make up 85% of the UK's landmass and are home to approximately 10 million people, face significant challenges such as deprivation, economic shocks, climate change impacts, and health inequalities. These challenges lead to higher rates of preventable conditions, emergency physical and psychological presentations, and shorter life expectancies. As one of the largest counties by area in England with a large sparsely populated area and over 50 miles of coastline and wetlands, Lincolnshire itself is particularly vulnerable to these inequalities.
The LIRCH will bring together various disciplines - including geography, community health care, and rural and coastal health - to create a multi-faceted approach to both rural and coastal health, delivering research and solutions with the people and communities affected.
The Institute will connect its research agendas with regional and national priorities as it seeks to improve physical, mental, social, and economic health and wellbeing in coastal and rural communities in Lincolnshire and beyond.
Professor Mark Gussy, Global Professor in Rural Health and Social Care, said: “This funding is recognition of the importance of understanding how health and wellbeing is experienced in communities outside large urban areas and major cities and why that is important for the nation as a whole.
“Coastal and rural communities can be disproportionately impacted by economic problems, weather related disasters and climate change in addition to longstanding health challenges and poorer access to services.
"Linking the geospatial, environment and weather influences with traditional population health sciences we will develop a more sophisticated understanding of the broader determinants of health and wellbeing.
“With community inclusion at the heart of everything LIRCH will do, it will tackle urgent place-based inequalities and develop solutions to improve physical, mental, social, and economic health and wellbeing in coastal and rural communities.”
The Institute also aims to boost research talent and innovation pathways in the region, as well as creating future leaders by involving a new generation of researchers in co-designing and shaping this emerging discipline area.
Professor Duncan French, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Head of College of Health & Science at the University, said: “I am absolutely delighted that our research strength in rural and coastal health, and the systemic inequalities often associated with rural and coastal communities, has been recognised.
“The E3 success will allow the Institute to become the preeminent area of expertise nationally on this important theme, and to play its part in international collaborations. I look forward to supporting the Institute in maximising the opportunities that this successful bid will allow.”