Our Health, Our Future shortlisted for national public engagement award

An ambitious project bringing together researchers and young people from areas with some of the poorest health outcomes in the UK, to address public health research challenges in local school communities, has been shortlisted for a prestigious public engagement award.

The aim of Our Health, Our Future was to create dialogue between groups of young people, researchers and healthcare professionals to generate new ideas about how research can improve health in school communities. The project was led by the Public Programmes Team, Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust working in partnership with The University of Manchester, and commissioned by Manchester Academic Health Science Centre (MAHSC) as part of a series of work around health impact, culminating in the Our Impact on Health Conference.

The project is one of 3 to be shortlisted in the Health and Wellbeing category of the Engage Competition, run by the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE). The competition aims to find and celebrate high quality public engagement with research projects from across the UK, that have a lasting impact and legacy.

The Public Programmes team worked with the Manchester Schools Alliance to organise a school conference for 85 students, aged 12-17 years old, from five schools in Greater Manchester. The day consisted of hands-on activities, drama performances and debates focused around the question “How should MAHSC spent £10 million to address health in your community?”. This provided a perfect environment for students to devise imaginative approaches to approach health problems they cared about. At the same time, a local playwright, Sarah Woods, worked with sixth form students and the schools involved in the schools conference to create a thought provoking drama piece, which was performed by the students in front of 650 research professionals at the MAHSC conference.

Bella Starling, Director of the Public Programmes Team, said: “This was a brave and innovative project, focusing on groups of young people who have important things to say about healthcare research, but might not always be included in discussions about such research. The use of narrative and drama was a powerful tool to engage all the people involved in the project – young people, researchers and healthcare professionals alike. The project’s legacy includes the development of equality and diversity as a strategic priority area for public engagement within Central Manchester NHS Trust and partner organisations.”

The drama performance left a lasting impact on the 650 research professionals from across Greater Manchester attending the conference. It brought to light the issues that mattered to the younger community, through the medium of drama, catching the attention of researchers and instigated discussions at the conference and on social media, as to how these problems could be addressed.

Being shortlisted for the NCCPE award is a remarkable achievement – finalists have been selected from over 180 entries which demonstrate a broad range of high quality activities to inspire and involve public audiences. Finalists’ work ranged from digitally reconstructing city histories to protecting endangered species; from working with older people as researchers to delivering hyper-local science festivals; from young children conducting their own research to influence the United Nations, to using theatre to improve oral health outcomes.

Paul Manners, Director of the NCCPE said “The Engage Competition is a highlight of our work at the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement. It uncovers amazing people, projects, partners and research. This year did not disappoint. The quality of the applications has been higher than ever, showcasing the very best of engagement practice across all disciplines and participant groups – reaching from the very local to the global.”

There are six competition categories, and the winner of each category will receive a prize of £1,500 to go towards further public engagement work. The winners will be decided on the 28th November, before being announced at an awards ceremony as part of Engage 2016, the NCCPE’s annual conference, on 29th November 2016.

Please visit the Public Programmes Team’s website for more information and this and other projects.