Dr Ashra Khanom, based at Swansea University Medical School, and her team of researchers from asylum-seeking and refugee communities won the 2019 Public Involvement Achievement Award for their ground-breaking work on the HEAR study.
In its second year, the Public Involvement Achievement Award, organised by Health and Care Research Wales and presented at the annual conference, aims to celebrate the excellent public involvement in research taking place across Wales.
In recent years, numbers of asylum seekers and refugees in Wales have increased but we know little about their healthcare experiences.
The HEAR study (The Health Experiences of Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Wales) investigated the health, wellbeing and healthcare experiences of adult asylum seekers and refugees in Wales, including the views and experiences of both healthcare recipients and providers.
Due to the hard-to-reach nature of the research population, the study team used novel methods of public involvement to overcome these challenges.
They trained and supported eight researchers from asylum-seeking and refugee communities to deliver the research, helping to put participants at ease and eliminating language barriers.
Noor Hina, one of the peer researchers on the team said: “Thank you for the opportunity you gave me, it was a big honour for me to receive the award. Involvement in the HEAR study was very exciting. ”
“We are delighted that the HEAR study Public and Patient Involvement (PPI) has been recognized by this year’s Health and Care Research Wales prestigious PPI award”, said lead researcher Ashra.
“It reflects the thought and care we as the HEAR team have taken to ensure marginalised groups such as asylum seekers and refugees were included in the study as peer researchers and PPI members.
“They enabled us to gain the trust and access to the wider sanctuary seeking population in Wales.
“We hope this study will set the bar for other future work where traditionally hard to reach groups can have meaningful roles in studies as partners and collaborators.”
Study results suggest that a combination of a compassionate approach to providing care and additional resources for training and support of health care professionals and people seeking sanctuary, notably interpretation, can improve access, and reduce healthcare inequalities, for asylum seekers and refugees.
Alex Newberry, who represented Welsh Government on the judging panel for the award, said: “The application demonstrated the strong public involvement activity throughout the whole project and a clear connection to the UK Standards for public involvement.
“It shows how a flexible approach to how you can value people’s contribution to the project in a number of ways offers innovative ways to reward and empower those involved.
“The application demonstrated the impact that the public involvement has had as being critical to the delivery of the project, and that the voice of those involved really shone through.”
The HEAR study is a collaboration between Swansea University, Public Health Wales (through their Research Partnership Fund) and four third sector organisations: The British Red Cross, Displaced People in Action, Welsh Refugee Council and Ethnic Youth Support Team. For public involvement support and advice, please contact the Health and Care Research Wales public involvement and engagement team by email.