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28 Feb 2023

Three new projects funded by the NIHR ARCs Health and Care Inequalities and Prevention National Priority Consortia.

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Three new projects, led by Early Career Researchers, have been selected for funding by the NIHR ARCs Health and Care Inequalities and Prevention National Priority Consortia.

The projects cover: food insecurity and tobacco dependence; fuel poverty and mental health; and factors which influence takeaway buying habits.

The chosen projects involve cross-ARC working in collaboration with public and practice colleagues, and aim to support the development of the Early Career Researchers (ECRs) leading the work.

More about the projects

Exploring the perspectives and experiences of food insecure adults who also experience tobacco dependence

Lead researcher: Kerry Brennan-Tovey

Project summary

Smoking levels are highest in groups who face inequality, and one such group is people who are food insecure. Smoking can further exacerbate poverty and food insecurity. However, there is little research on how people who are food insecure can be supported with reducing addiction to tobacco.

This project aims to explore the experiences and perspectives of food insecure adults, who also smoke tobacco, living in the North East of England.

This will involve exploring their perspectives of smoking and their health, including:

  • the importance of stopping smoking,
  • the types of services (both food aid and tobacco cessation) available to them,
  • the stigma associated with food insecurity and tobacco dependence, and
  • the management of their financial responsibilities

Interviews will be conducted with food insecure adults who also smoke tobacco and will be analysed to understand the relationship between these experiences and identify areas for future research and action.

This study will help to inform the development of a key set of priorities that can then be used in practice – for example, developing a community smoking cessation programme tailored specifically for food insecure adults.

Factors perceived to influence the purchase and consumption of takeaway food amongst adults living in the UK: a multi-method study 

Lead researcher: Luis Filipe

Project summary

Frequently consuming takeaway food is linked to obesity and related health problems. Strategies to make takeaway foods healthier, including healthier cooking practices and providing calorie information are being implemented in England. However, their effectiveness is not supported by strong evidence, and some interventions may only benefit some groups of people, for example those with higher levels of education.

For new approaches to be effective and equitable, consumer preferences must be considered. Current understanding of the factors and attributes on which consumers base their takeaway preferences, such as taste, portion size and cost, is limited. We also do not know how these preferences vary by personal characteristics such as ethnicity and education level.

This project will conduct focus groups to explore how and why consumers select certain takeaway foods. Findings from these focus groups will inform the design of a discrete choice experiment (DCE) with a sample of 1,000 people.

Participants will be presented with ‘dilemmas’ whereby they will select their preference for takeaway foods that vary by defined attributes, for example tastiness, cost, healthiness.

Researchers will then calculate their ranked preferences and willingness to pay for certain attributes of takeaway food, including willingness to pay for a healthy takeaway food, and how this varies by personal characteristics.

Findings from this work will inform points of intervention that are most likely to be effective and acceptable to consumers, allowing policymakers and practitioners to efficiently allocate finance and resource to support ‘best buy’ interventions.

How does fuel poverty affect mental health? Designing and testing a theoretical framework

Lead researchers: Natalie Bennett and Sam Khavandi

Project summary

We are living through a ‘cost of living crisis’, where everyday essentials become too expensive for many people. Growing numbers of people are finding that they are not able to afford the energy they need to do things like heat their homes, turn on the washing machine, cook their food or to shower anymore. We call this ‘fuel poverty’.

We know that the conditions of the home that you live in can affect your health, especially when it is too cold. Most research has only investigated how ‘fuel poverty’ impacts your physical health. This includes things like making long term health conditions like arthritis and asthma worse.

The impacts on physical health are important, but living in ‘fuel poverty’ might also affect your mental health. For example, worrying about bills, wearing unclean clothes, not eating well and feeling like you can’t invite friends over because of the cold or damp are all things which might damage your mental health. However, we don’t understand all the ways ‘fuel poverty’ damages mental health yet.

In our project, we will:

  • Review the research done so far on how ‘fuel poverty’ damages mental health
  • Make a diagram to show all of the ways researchers think ‘fuel poverty’ damages mental health
  • Use survey data from across England to look at some of these ways ‘fuel poverty’ might damage mental health

We will work with public involvement groups throughout the research to make sure we are looking into the things that matter most.


More about the National Priority Consortium – Health and Care Inequalities

More about the National Priority Consortium – Prevention with Behavioural Risk Factors