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Global Public Health

In 2016, the UK Government announced a £1.5 billion fund to address complex global development challenges and improve quality of life for people living in low and middle income countries (PDF). Called the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), the fund supports work that tackles the issues highlighted in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and allocated £26 million over four years to provide opportunities for projects within the arts and humanities research community.

One of the key GCRF Challenge areas is Sustainable Health & Wellbeing, which maps on to UN Sustainable Development Goal 3 (Good Health & Wellbeing), with some projects also having relevance to other Goals (such as Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation, for example).

There have been 17 Sustainable Health and Wellbeing projects supported by the AHRC that have benefited a range of ODA recipient countries, including India, Ghana, Uganda, Nepal, Cambodia, Thailand and Bangladesh. This work has addressed issues from improving local healthcare in rural communities, to tackling the cultural and social barriers to healthcare treatment, and using the arts to develop culturally appropriate healthcare education.

View all the GCRF funding opportunities AHRC has funded, past and present.

Case study

SOLACE: Stories of public health through local art-based community engagement


Copyright: SOLACE.

SOLACE brings together researchers from a wide range of academic disciplines (anthropology, public health, psychology, community engagement, management studies, primary care, documentary theatre and rural health), artists, policy makers and health professionals. The overall objective of the SOLACE study is to understand what it really means to live in an underserved, remote and rural area like the Province of Northern Samar in the Philippines. The SOLACE team held several community engagement activities, and with inhabitants of six barangays (villages) they established the broad themes around which the team worked during a year-long ethnographic fieldwork. They co-created knowledge, stories and artwork with participants around healthcare in the Philippines.

Dr Lisa Dikomitis, SOLACE Principal Investigator, said: “Northern Samar is one of the most beautiful, but also one of the poorest provinces in the Philippines with many so-called GIDA villages – Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas. About half of the province’s inhabitants live below the poverty line. There is also a real and severe lack of healthcare professionals. During our fieldwork – the SOLACE ethnographers lived for many months among the locals in Northern Samar – we explored what this exactly means for those delivering healthcare and those at the receiving end of care, both from traditional healers and doctors in the formal healthcare sector.”

Research impacts and achievements:

  • The SOLACE team has recently concluded the ethnographic and creative fieldwork activities in the Province of Northern Samar. These have been presented at a national conference (watch the presentations)
  • SOLACE researchers have presented their findings to provincial and national health policymakers in the Philippines and at the country’s national health organisations
  • The team held a public exhibition at Keele University in May 2019, with another exhibition launching in Manila in September 2019
  • It was paramount to include the future clinical and creative workforces. SOLACE launched a SOLACE student competition in the UK and the Philippines, and four winners became the SOLACE ambassadors, they went on an immersive field trip in Northern Samar (read their stories in the SOLACE blogs). The students designed interdisciplinary global health learning toolkits, which have been piloted at several medical schools.

Case study

Idioms of Distress, Resilience and Wellbeing: Enhancing Understanding about Mental Health in Multilingual Contexts

The Idioms of Distress project worked in Ghana, Gaza, Uganda and Zimbabwe - and with newly arrived refugees in Scotland - looking at native languages and how they express feelings of distress, resilience and wellbeing. Arts and humanities perspectives were applied to translating the idioms with greater sensitivity to the place and context that they originated from, raising awareness of and sensitivity to multilingual and cross-cultural working in health perspectives. The linguistic data generated from this project was also translated into artistic expression to further increase he reach and impact of the study.

Research impacts and achievements:

  • This work benefits care givers and health workers needing to work multilingually with refugees and displaced peoples
  • The project has demonstrated that knowledge of mother tongue idioms of distress can enhance mental wellbeing in contexts of forced displacement and distress, and is especially beneficial where there is mental health stigma with little or no access to support services
  • The project team has contributed to policy discussions wand advisory committees within the European Parliament and the Scottish Refugee Task Force, amongst others.

Associated image copyright: Jean-Marie Hullot on Flickr by CC 2.0.