Oxfordshire’s public health research recognised by the National Institute for Health and Care Research

Staff in Oxfordshire County Council’s public health team have been recognised for their work to support research in local government with the Outstanding Contribution to Public Health and Social Care Research Award from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Thames Valley Health Research Awards.

The team’s work has included a partnership with researchers from the University of Bristol and NIHR Clinical Research Network Thames Valley and South Midlands to evaluate the approach the county council has undertaken in Bicester and Witney to promote active travel, which includes cycling and walking, to work, school, and other journeys.

The awards recognise the contributions of network-supported staff who make NHS, public health and social care research happen in hospitals and community settings. Members of the team have also promoted a wider regional local authority public health research group, the first of its kind in the region.

Councillor Mark Lygo, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Health and Equalities, said: “Active travel is a priority for the Fair Deal Alliance in Oxfordshire as a part of our ambitions to deliver on climate action targets and improve health and wellbeing.

“I am delighted to see the team’s innovative research into the work being undertaken has been recognised with this prestigious award.”

The research study is funded through the NIHR Public Health Intervention Responsive Studies Teams (PHIRST) scheme to explore the barriers and enablers to active travel in market towns.

With the study’s inclusion in the NIHR’s research portfolio, the council has been successful in securing further support from the NIHR Clinical Research Network to deliver the project.

Dr Adam Briggs, Oxfordshire County Council’s Deputy Director of Public Health and lead for public health research, said: “We are delighted that the hard work of the team to promote public health research in local government has been recognised with this award.

“Research is a vital tool in helping us to understand what works to improve wellbeing and tackle inequalities in Oxfordshire. Whilst we still have lots to do both in the council and with our regional academic and health and care partners, this award shows that we’re heading in the right direction.”

Professor Manu Vatish, Clinical Director of the NIHR Clinical Research Network Thames Valley and South Midlands, said: “This is a well-deserved award for Oxfordshire County Council's active travel health study. This reflects the dual approach of the NIHR Clinical Research Network supporting not only NHS clinical research studies, but also research that promotes healthy behaviours. Huge congratulations!”

As part of the council’s ongoing active travel research, the research team is looking for volunteers to take part in focus group discussions. These will be held in a public place in Witney and Bicester, lasting up to one hour. Discussions aim to look at attitudes to walking and cycling, opportunities to do so in the towns and what might be done to encourage residents to walk or cycle. Volunteers should be people who commute to work, or older adults aged between 65 and 75 years.

There are also opportunities for an accompanied walking or cycling journey later in the year, and a follow-up interview with a researcher.

People are offered a £30 shopping voucher for taking part in the focus groups and a £50 voucher for the accompanied journey and interview. Anybody interested should contact tricia.jessiman@bristol.ac.uk or on 07977 902012 to find out more. Participants do not need to be frequent cyclists or walkers.

For more information about research and to search for studies seeking volunteers visit bepartofresearch.nihr.ac.uk.

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