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Mission underway to open up research to all

A newly published blueprint will ensure people who face disadvantage and under-representation are always considered when researchers design their studies.

The Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA) Toolkit is about making research culture and practice more inclusive and ensuring people of all backgrounds are visible in setting research priorities.

It has been launched by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) East Midlands, which is leading the way nationally in working towards greater equality and representation in all areas of research.

The toolkit will help researchers proactively take steps to advance equality of opportunities, eliminate discrimination and engage people with protected characteristics in the development, implementation and dissemination of health research.

It consists of comprehensive guide and a directory of useful resources as well as ongoing advice and guidance. It includes an example EqIA, which is an approach designed to improve equality analysis, practice and outcomes. The toolkit helps determine and understand how what we do may affect people differently.

ARC East Midlands is currently the only ARC to instigate this unique method for conducting health research, having introduced the process in 2019.

Professor Kamlesh Khunti is Director of NIHR ARC East Midlands and the Centre for Ethnic Health Research as well as a Professor of Primary Care Diabetes and Vascular Medicine at the University of Leicester. He said: “Assessments of this kind have been part of public sector organisational development, service and practice for many years. However, its specific use in relation to health research is new.”

“This process is designed to ensure that equality considerations apply to all stages of the ARC East Midlands-funded research process – not limited to the completion of an assessment form at its outset – and is a continual undertaking; a ‘live’ system and procedure that will shape and re-shape equality and related considerations from construction to outcome and beyond, as each study takes its course. In doing so, it makes research more relevant to more people, thereby making a greater difference ‘on the ground’.”

Professor Khunti, who is also co-Director of the Leicester Diabetes Centre, added: “The toolkit is designed to be both an assessment of why we undertake an EqIA as well as a step-by-step guide through the process. It also introduces the material that we use, the questions that we ask of researchers and the sources of information that are an essential part of the investigation and consultation components of an EqIA.”

Professor Azhar Farooqi, a Clinical Director at the Centre for Ethnic Health Research, said: “Inclusivity in research is vital in ensuring that health services develop in a way that are appropriate for all our communities, and help to reduce health inequalities. This toolkit will make an important contribution to achieving this aim.”

Earlier this year, the Centre for Ethnic Health Research was involved in the INCLUDE Ethnicity Framework, which was released to provide researchers with a blueprint for ensuring involvement of all ethnic groups in scientific studies.

The Centre for Ethnic Health Research is working to reduce health inequalites in the region by sharing resources and promoting research. The Centre is supported by the University of Leicester and ARC East Midlands.

To download the toolkit, click here.

Published on: 24 Nov 2021