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This research funded under the SPHR health inequalities programme involves an evaluation of a Big Lottery funded initiative that aims to give residents of 150 areas across England greater control over actions to improve their neighbourhood.

Please visit our webpage for this study:

Who is undertaking the research?

The research is being undertaken by LiLaC in partnership with fellow SPHR member institutions including Sheffield, Exeter, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and FUSE, a collaboration of universities in North East England. The overall project is led by Professor Jennie Popay at the University of Lancaster. The research also involves close collaboration with local residents and Local Trust, the national organisation managing Big Local.

Why has this research been developed?

The most important driver for this evaluation is the growing body of evidence that low control may be a fundamental cause of inequalities in health. However, there is little evidence about effective ways to support greater control and impacts on health. Given the growing body of research suggesting that enhanced collective control can make a significant contribution to improving health and reducing health inequalities, the lack of evidence on effective ways to support greater control for communities needs to be addressed.

What is Big Local?

Big Local is run by Local Trust and funded by the Big Lottery Fund with an investment of more than £200 million. It provides residents in each community with at least £1m and a range of other support and funding to develop ways of improving their neighbourhoods. Big Local has the potential to improve health by focusing on important determinants (e.g. environment, neighbourhood stigma and social cohesion) and by increasing the control that residents have over actions to improve their neighbourhoods.

Phase 1 of the Communities in Control Study

The first phase began in January 2014 and ended in December 2015. During this period we conducted a process evaluation and the feasibility work required to conduct an evaluation of the health and social outcomes of Big Local. The aims of phase 1 were to:

  • To assess the feasibility of conducting an assessment of the health and social outcomes of Big Local in a second phase of work
  • To identify early learning for practice through a detailed exploration of the Big Local programme and its roll out
  • To contribute to improved methods and instruments for evaluating area based initiatives.

Phase 2: The assessment of social and health outcomes of Big Local

The second phase of the Communities in Control Study got underway in October 2015 and runs until March 2017. This phase is adopting a systems approach to investigate how the implementation of Big Local, across diverse neighbourhoods and population groups influences how residents work together to take direct action to change things in their local neighbourhood or to influence decisions taken by others.

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