Impact Review 2023-4: BNSSG ICB diverse Research Engagement Network

The diverse Research Engagement Network for our region is a co-ordinated approach to making local research more equal, diverse and inclusive. Here are some of its achievements in the last year, and testimonials from people involved.

Image credit: Caafi Health

A growing network

More than 140 people keen to increase diversity in research have now joined the network. In-person and online meetings are well attended, with many positive connections being made. For example, after getting involved in the Network, UWE Bristol’s Diversifying Images in Healthcare project featured on the Network co-chair’s BCFM radio show, which increased public involvement in the project.

The Network is not just a resource for research. Increasingly it is seen as an asset for those engaged in service planning, such as colleagues in South Gloucestershire Council working on their Joint Strategic Needs Assessment who wanted insights into the experiences of people from diverse communities with chronic pain.

Engaging events

Health Ambassadors, managed by Caafi Health, have run a series of engagement and outreach events, on topics ranging from heart health to vaccinations.

Engagement activities are also organised by other network members embedded in communities, such as ‘Community MOT’ days by DET Entertainment, which focus on health and research promotion, and building trust, and ‘Black Men’s Health’ meetings and events hosted by Nilaari.

Expertise in demand

By April 2024, Caafi Health had received more than 20 research support requests from researchers via their dedicated Network support request form and email. Common requests include recruitment support, organising public involvement and focus groups, community engagement and assistance with making research material more culturally appropriate and relevant.

Topics ranged from understanding barriers to seeking help for eating disorders, to developing research to help people benefit from meals on wheels services, to co-designing resources to improve self-management by black African and Afro-Caribbean communities living with stroke.

Nilaari is also leading two funded research projects looking at South Asian and Caribbean women living with long term chronic pain, and Polish women’s unmet health needs in South Bristol.

Influencing research practice and culture

To support ‘Community Ready Researchers’, the Network has co-developed terms of engagement for researchers. These aim to develop equitable, respectful and mutually beneficial collaborations between researchers and community partners, recognising the important role of community organisations in research and ensuring their fair treatment, compensation and involvement.

Another change is that any researchers applying for Research Capability Funding from the local Integrated Care Board must either have had (or soon be having) anti-racism training, and trauma informed approaches training.

Delivering EDI training

In September 2023, Network co-chair Monira Chowdhury delivered ‘Improving Recruitment and Retention through an EDI lens’ training. This event was held in partnership with North Bristol NHS Trust and VSCE organisation Ashley Community Housing and attended by more than 50 local health and care system partners.


Samina Baig, Health Ambassador:

“I feel the Health Ambassador job is a really valuable and needed role. The interest from the researchers has been great as I feel they are not always sure how best to connect with the communities. More work is required with the communities themselves as it takes time to build relationships and build trust. Education is required on both sides.

“I would like to see a future where it is not THEM and US but seen as a joint responsibility to help make a difference for future generations in terms of involvement in health research.”

Gemma Bridge and Christine Ramsey-Wade (Eating Disorders HIT co-director), University of the West of England, Bristol:

“We planned to host focus groups to talk about food relationships and disordered eating with people from diverse ethnic backgrounds living in Bristol. However, we were working to a tight deadline and were unsure how we would reach people from within relevant communities.

“Samina supported us by sharing our call for participants with her network. With her support, we were able to recruit 16 participants from Somali, Bengali, Indian, Pakistani, and Caribbean backgrounds over a 4-week period. This gave us the opportunity to hear from a range of people about an important, but understudied topic.

“What is more, Samina worked with us to review the cultural relevance of our focus group questions. This was important to our project as it helped us to ensure that the wording used was appropriate, acceptable, and accessible for the participants, and helped us have interesting and insightful conversations. Thank you Samina!”

Clare Cook, NHS Access and Equalities Lead, Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, Integrated Vaccination Programme:

“Thank you for leading such an excellent community conversation session on MMR today, hearing directly from our community is invaluable.

“These sessions provide people with opportunities to learn, connect and be heard and help us understand why people aren’t accessing our services, and continues to inform and shape our local vaccine offer.”

Highlights of the year

“I want to reframe what happened to me into something more positive”

How a stroke led to Aneta becoming a public contributor for the Stroke Health Integration Team (HIT).

Leaders' views

Maria Kane and Professor David Wynick recap the year.