Collaborating with community groups to improve health
Sheffield Hallam is working closely with local communities to understand complex health issues that lead to health inequalities in the city and across South Yorkshire.
Research at Sheffield Hallam’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre (AWRC) is contributing to local development via the themed research programme, and unique business support initiatives. The AWRC has set up a range of formal collaborations with groups in the community to make a positive impact on local people’s health and wellbeing through physical activity.
This includes the Active Together service, delivered by the AWRC in partnership with Yorkshire Cancer Research and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Active Together helps local people with cancer prepare for and recover from treatment through physical activity, nutrition and psychological wellbeing support.
The University also supports and hosts Mettle, a weightlifting and strength training club which provides paid internships and development roles for students who manage and deliver activity sessions that focus on community enrichment and social change. Programmes include GirlSTRONG a group exclusively for women and weightlifting youth club Strength and Fitness. The sessions are delivered in Attercliffe and at Sheffield Hallam’s Collegiate Campus
Darnall Well Being and the AWRC
Civic fellowships have been established to nurture strong partnerships between local community-based organisations and academic researchers at Sheffield Hallam, as part of the University’s ongoing Civic commitments.
The first Civic Fellowship enables research projects between the AWRC and Darnall Well Being - a not-for-profit, community health organisation working to help the people of Darnall and Tinsley, some of the most economically disadvantaged areas of the city. This partnership enhances the place-based research of the AWRC and has been made possible through the generous support of Westfield Health.
The Civic Fellowship one-year project identified how young Darnall residents aged between 17 – 27 years-old were building-back resilience following the pandemic. The AWRC recruited eight interns and focused on their physical activity, wellbeing, experiences of living in the area and any barriers for opportunities for employment.
The project demonstrated that young adults want to actively contribute to the development and wellbeing of the area and particularly want to engage with each other, building their links and networks to support the whole community.
AWRC and Long Covid support
During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the AWRC and Darnall Well Being ran a series of research clinics to learn more from local communities about the lived reality of managing and recovering from Long Covid.
Those living with Long Covid in Darnall, Attercliffe, Carbrook, Tinsley, and parts of Handsworth in the North and East areas of Sheffield took part in virtual clinics – a research project funded by Sport England. The clinics aimed to learn from individual experiences to help inform new ways of working in communities within economically deprived and underserved areas of the city.
The initial focus of the clinics was to gain an understanding of the participants’ lived experience of Long Covid. Follow-on advice was then provided about making small changes to improve participants' quality of life, creating a gentle exercise plan and scheduling regular rest to help support recuperation. Participants reported back on their experiences and engaged further with their GP as required. One clinic participant said:
“After suffering from Long Covid symptoms for months this research study was my first chance to express how I felt physically and mentally.
"The pace of the virtual clinics was very relaxed and I felt able to fully express myself. It was my first positive experience of talking about my health since I started with Long Covid symptoms as I did struggle to get through or get support from my surgery. The pathway - which included a final letter to me, a letter to my GP if needed and ongoing Darnall Well Being support - gave me hope that I would be able to pull myself through such a difficult time.”
The research clinics were part of the RICOVR unit, based at the AWRC, which was developed to provide knowledge and understanding about how people rehabilitate from the effects of Covid-19.
Dr Sally Fowler-Davis, clinical academic and Long Covid virtual clinics lead at Sheffield Hallam, said:
"This project, allowed us to develop our partnership with Darnall Well Being and the local community around a very important need. Many people in deprived communities have had Covid but had not yet sought help for the fatigue and other problems.
“This research enabled participants to benefit but also help us to understand more about the management of Long Covid in this neighbourhood.”
The Long Covid clinics worked with the local community until October 2021 – with the findings from the project published in December 2021. Patients seeking Long Covid support should contact their G.P.