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£5 million awarded to reduce health inequality

Published: 19 December 2023

£5 million has been awarded to a partnership project involving Public Health Wales with the aim of reducing health inequality and improving wellbeing in Rhondda Cynon Taf Council.

The funding has been awarded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) to enable Rhondda Cynon Taf to become a Health Determinants Research Collaboration (HDRC).

The collaboration, co-led by the Wales Centre for Public Policy, will bring together partners from Public Health Wales, Cardiff University, Cwm Taf Morgannwg Health Board, and Interlink RCT.

Each HDRC is hosted by a local authority which works with universities or institutions with expertise in the wider determinants of health. This brings together local government knowledge with research skills from the academic community. The aim is improving the evidence base on which to make policy decisions in important areas that impact on health and health inequalities.

The new funding will use research data from local health determinants to highlight how the County Borough can work together with its communities and partners to improve public health, reduce health inequality, and make better evidence-informed decisions to deliver and inform our future services.

Wider determinants of health refer to the broader factors that influence a person's overall health and well-being, such as air and water quality, housing quality, access to green spaces, employment and working conditions, education and literacy.

Rhondda Cynon Taf has a lower life expectancy for males and females, lower educational attainment and higher alcohol consumption and obesity levels compared with the Wales average.

Cancers and circulatory disease are consistently a major concern for premature death in Rhondda Cynon Taf, with lung cancer incident rate being significantly higher in the area, alongside Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) – both of which can be linked to the high number of smokers across the County Borough and the historic mining community.

The HDRC will be looking to actively work with Rhondda Cynon Taf residents and will listen to people’s views and involve them appropriately in shaping and undertaking research.

Alisha Davies, Head of Research and Development for Public Health Wales, said:

We are pleased to be involved in this important award in collaboration with Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council. 

“This innovative partnership will be working across the local authority, academics and Public Health Wales to strengthen the development and use of data, evidence and research, to inform the future work of RCT, contributing to improving health and wellbeing, of the local community.”

Louise Davies, Director of Public Health and Protection at Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, said: “People living in communities across Rhondda Cynon Taf face major health challenges and higher rates of deprivation than the Wales average. We welcome the funding announced by National Institute for Health and Care Research and will now work collaboratively to ensure that we can change the outcomes for our local community.

“Knowledge is power and with the capacity to do evidence-based research that the HDCR will give us, we will gain the knowledge we need to shape the services that our communities need and want in Rhondda Cynon Taf.

“We thank NIHR in giving us the power to develop research to improve the Rhondda Cynon Taf communities’ health and wellbeing. Over the coming months and years, we will be reaching out to residents to get involved in the HDRC - as they are key stakeholders in this collaboration and will always be at the centre of what we do.

“It is hoped that the partnerships between the Council, Cardiff University, Interlink RCT, Public Health Wales and Cwm Taf University Health Board will enable Rhondda Cynon Taf Council to make better evidence-informed decisions that will make a difference to the health of our residents- critical given the current pressures on funding.”

Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, Councillor Andrew Morgan OBE said: “Everyone should have the opportunity to live a healthy life, no matter who they are or where they live.

“By focusing on the wider determinants of health such as employment, housing, education and the physical environment, the local communities that we support have a tremendous opportunity to make a lasting impact on reducing health inequalities and wider deprivation.

“We welcome this funding, which comes after some very difficult years for Rhondda Cynon Taf. As a County Borough we were hit hard by Covid-19, which came after the devastation of Storm Dennis.

“The communities of Rhondda Cynon Taf face some of the highest levels of deprivation, which in turn increases health inequality and reduces life-expectancy. It is hoped that through this collaboration we can help improve the future of current and future generations.”  

Dan Bristow, WCPP Director of Policy and Practice said, "We welcome this major NIHR investment, which will create new infrastructure to link research to policy and practice, and bring together individuals and organisations with the clear aim of improving the health outcomes of Rhondda Cynon Taf residents. Partners across the collaboration are committed to working directly with citizens to address the wider determinants of health. For the Wales Centre for Public Policy this is an exciting opportunity to work closely with RCT Council and partners to create a vibrant research culture that underpins evidence-based decision-making.”

Torfaen County Borough Council have also been awarded a development award from the same fund.

For more information on HDRCs visit