Smeaton's Tower on Plymouth Hoe, Plymouth UK
Working in partnership with Plymouth City Council, this project aims to tackle the determinants of health inequalities in Plymouth and provides opportunities to undertake research, ask challenging questions and understand how wider societal issues such as education, poverty, housing, planning, transport and employment influence the health of the communities in the city.


In late 2022 the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) awarded Plymouth City Council and its partners £4.7 million of investment over five years to tackle the social determinants of health inequalities in Plymouth. This is in recognition of the role that non-medical factors such as employment, housing, food, crime, community cohesion and education play in determining health disparities. The Plymouth HDRC (PHDRC) will build upon work already undertaken by the Council and the University to ensure that we better understand what works, why and under which circumstances (financial, contextual and organisational) and share this learning.
The programme will involve the delivery of a number of high-quality research projects addressing the determinants of health inequalities. It will support council staff to undertake research and commissioners to use the evidence to inform decision making and spending decisions, in ways which lead to improved quality of life.
The programme lead is the Public Health Department of Plymouth City Council, with the University as the lead academic partner providing its extensive research expertise. Other partners include Plymouth Octopus, the wider voluntary and community sector, the NHS, business, and other academic groups.
A joint Plymouth City Council and University of Plymouth research team embedded within the council has been set up to work alongside those delivering changes designed to address the wider determinants of health and collaborate with specialist university researchers. Public Partnerships will be developed through links to existing organisations and the engagement of individuals during specific projects.
Informed by a Human Learning Systems philosophy and building on the existing use of Appreciative Inquiry (AI), the team will use a range of methods suited to understanding complex dynamic systems: evidence synthesis, quantitative analysis of routine data, realist informed observation and interviews and health economics.


  1. Develop the culture and skills to ensure a learning approach informs decision making.
  2. Produce knowledge for use locally and of value nationally, especially for similar coastal communities.


  • Support changes aimed at addressing the wider determinants of health through a cultural change in relation to the use of evidence and evaluation.
  • Carry out specific prioritised research projects related to The Plymouth Plan’s innovations to address the wider determinants of health.
  • Successfully bid for external research funding.
  • Build collaborations for sharing knowledge and carrying out research with other HDRCs and similar coastal communities.

How the HDRC team can help


Staff members working on the project

Existing Projects

In order to help prepare for the establishment of the Plymouth HDRC, the Plymouth Institute of Health and Care Research organised funding for four health determinants pump priming projects, jointly led by the University of Plymouth and Plymouth City Council staff. 
The four projects which were supported:
Title University of Plymouth Lead  Plymouth City Council Lead 
Is Food All We Need? Assessing the collective impact of food-focused initiatives in Plymouth.  Rebecca Carter Dillon  Rachel Silcock 
Using a series of ‘cradle-to-grave’ health and wellbeing indicators to measure the impacts of regeneration initiatives in Plymouth, UK:  A comparative study of selected neighbourhoods.  Stephen Essex  Robert Nelder 
Income maximisation for low-income families: how best to engage parents/carers, and what is the potential for improving parenting skills and child health and well-being?  Nick Axford  Rachel Silcock 
Transition to school  Rebecca Carter Dillon  Charlotte Merrill 

Plymouth Institute of Health and Care Research

From basic research discovering the causes of disease, through to evaluating novel ways of delivering care to the most vulnerable people in society, our thriving community conducts adventurous world-leading research.
Transformation in life course, ageing, methodologies, e-health, technology and interventions in health, social care, lifestyle and wellbeing.
Admissions information Additional information and documentation required for the application process.Access to application forms, download guides and confirmation information. Visit our admissions homepage.

Community and Primary Care research group

Our research is conducted through the involvement of practitioners, and the public, who are instrumental in helping to develop focused research questions and in designing projects.
We use a range of research methods, qualitative and quantitative, to solve pressing and often complex research problems. Our research is often directed towards those individuals who are the most excluded or disempowered, have mental health problems and have difficulty accessing services.
Research word button on keyboard with soft focus courtesy of Shutterstock, Copyright: dencg