Driving equality in health research at Leicester event

Date published

Ensuring all voices are heard in health research by creating a pioneering path towards equity was the focus at an ARC East Midlands symposium.

The event brought together researchers, healthcare providers and members of the public to “bridge the gap” in health inequalities in research on multiple long-term conditions (MLTCs), and equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI).

More than 70 delegates joined the symposium on Thursday, June 13 at the Big Shed Conferences in Leicester. It was chaired by Professor Kamlesh Khunti, Director of ARC East Midlands and Theme Lead for MLTCs Theme.

Keynote speaker Professor Shaun Treweek, Chair in Health Services Research at the University of Aberdeen, delivered a virtual presentation on improving EDI in health research.

The event featured research presentations from ARC East Midlands, including Dr Harini Sathanapally and Pauline Mountain MBE on the importance of terminology for patients with MLTCs, and recent findings on the lack of representation of underserved groups in intervention studies, delivered by Dr Ash Routen.

Research from other NIHR ARCs was also showcased. Dr Ameeta Retzer from ARC West Midlands shared a toolkit for capturing a representative and equitable sample in health research. Professor Mari Carmen-Portillo from ARC Wessex discussed establishing inclusive and diverse partnerships to better meet the needs of people with MLTCs

In the afternoon, the interactive workshops allowed attendees to delve deeper into the challenges and solutions surrounding EDI in health research. This included exploring strategies for overcoming barriers and creating more inclusive research practices.

The symposium concluded with a thought-provoking presentation by Professor Jeremy Howick on turning diversity from a barrier to a facilitator of empathy in healthcare

We must bridge the gap to create a truly level playing field, where every lived experience and perspective are valued equally.

Professor Kamlesh Khunti

In the closing remarks, Professor Khunti emphasised the crucial need to bridge the gap in health inequalities. He said: "Health inequalities are one of the greatest challenges facing our healthcare system today. Too often people living with MLTCs – especially from underrepresented and marginalised communities – fall through the cracks, receiving fragmented, impersonal care that fails to meet their complex needs.

“As the lead ARC for research on MLTCs and EDI, we have a responsibility to change this. We must bridge the gap to create a truly level playing field, where every lived experience and perspective are valued equally.”


Feedback from the delegates showed how meaningful the symposium was:

  • “Good variety of speakers and topics.”
  • “Very interactive.”
  • “The speakers, topics, lunch, venue, I enjoyed everything.”
  • “Empathy is cost effective.”
  • “Researchers need to explore ways to improve diversity through different approaches.”

Promoting inclusivity in health research

The symposium was part of the "Equality in Research Matters" campaign, led by ARC East Midlands and the Centre for Ethnic Health Research. A key focus has been the development of the Equality Impact Assessment Toolkit, which provides a framework to help promote inclusivity in health and social care research. 

ARC East Midlands has a strong track record for research on MLTCs, having previously hosted events and networking opportunities, developed online education seminars, and launched a podcast series aimed at raising awareness and sharing important insights on this critical healthcare issue. 

The organisation is also part of the NIHR Global Health Research Centre for MLTC, and Cross-NIHR collaboration on MLTC