Covid-19 response

Our Health helps local community groups better understand Covid-19 research

Students from the University of Edinburgh have used their skills and access to research to help local community groups better understand Covid-19 research

A collage of eight different women, all looking into the camera and smiling.

Our Health led by Dr Helen Szoor-McElhinney, is a community-university programme that invites real world research questions from local community groups, and empowers students to collaborate with community partners to answer them.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, the research questions investigated by the Our Health team have pivoted towards Covid-19. Community partners wanted evidence-based information about the disease so that they could explore with students how this new information could be used to understand and better manage their own health during the pandemic. The students could draw on the research, much of it produced by the University itself, to share timely and specific evidence with partners.

Our Health has been running since 2018, and has both a local and global focus. Particular projects have seen students work with those with lung conditions, homelessness and isolation, and eye health problems.

Those same groups were keen to understand how Covid-19 might interact with their particular condition or situation. The students have produced newsletters that collate and summarise up-to-date research for their community partners.

According to Dr Helen Szoor-McElhinney, the relationships between the students and community partners have deepened through lockdown.

“Our Health students have been keen to strengthen their existing relationships with their community partners, by sharing with them their own experiences of lockdown through videos that they have created. The videos have enabled conversations to begin around feelings of isolation, loneliness and uncertainty. Having an opportunity to share these common experiences is helping to build stronger relationships built on trust and compassion and will undoubtedly benefit everyone involved during this pandemic and beyond’

For those Our Health team members who remain in Edinburgh, a new – decidedly not desk-based – strand of the programme has begun.

“The Our Health team have been supporting our community partners by getting on our bikes to help deliver essential prescriptions. We have been working with the Edinburgh Access Practice, who provide specialist care for people living with homelessness, to deliver medicines and supplies to those in particular need.

“The feedback we have received from the community partners has been excellent. It is fantastic that this work is meeting a real need in our local communities. The next stage will see students and partners creating a series of Our Health Covid-19 webinars and online discussion forums so that we can continue learning and developing new knowledge together, as our understanding of Covid-19 improves.”


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