Communities in Control

Big Local

What are the aims of this project?
This study aims to evaluate a Lottery-funded initiative – the Big Local – that aims to give residents in disadvantaged neighbourhoods a bigger say over what happens and how resources are used to improve their local area.  Big Local is run by Local Trust and is taking place in 150 communities across England over the next 15 years.

Why is this important?
Past research suggests that low control may be a fundamental cause of inequalities in health. However, we know little about how to support greater control, particularly at the level of communities. We also need to know more about how and why control impacts on health and its social determinants. The Big Local presents a great opportunity to learn more about effective ways to support greater control by communities.

How will the research be carried out?

There will be two phases. Phase one involves:

  1. Detailed case studies across 10 Big Local sites and analysis of quantitative data to describe the neighbourhood contexts and early experiences in different places.
  2. Interviews and document analysis at national level to describe how the Big Local intervention is expected to work.
  3. Design of methods to evaluate the impact of Big Local on health and wellbeing in the longer term (Phase two).

 Timeframe: January 2014-March 2017

Professor Jennie Popay of Lancaster University leads our team of researchers from LiLaC,  Cambridge, Exeter, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, FUSE and Sheffield.  Here in SPHR@Sheffield we are currently conducting case studies in two Big Local sites in Yorkshire.

How are stakeholders being engaged?
In case study sites residents are consulted on the conduct of the study and in some areas Community Researchers are directly engaged. Local advisory groups provide critical commentary and findings will be shared widely as they emerge. Local Trust guides and supports the work.

What will be the outputs from the study?
Resources for public health practitioners and local neighbourhoods will be produced, focusing on:

  • The links between collective control and health inequalities;
  • Factors influencing public health actions in low income neighbourhoods;
  • Lessons about community engagement/empowerment;
  • Small area monitoring systems;

Presentations and papers from the project will be listed here.

Find out more here

Relationship between poverty and stress, low level anxiety and depression across the life course

Co-Investigators: Dr Sue Baxter, Professor Paul Bissell, Dr Hannah Fairbrother, Professor Liddy Goyder, Professor Sarah Salway, Professor Jeremy Wight, Helen Woods

Funder: Joseph Rowntree Foundation

This project explores  the relationship between poverty and stress, low level anxiety and depression across the life course. It aims to provide an evidence base that the Joseph Rowntree Foundation can use in developing its antipoverty strategies, and wider work on the role of individuals and their relationships in reducing poverty. The primary focus is on providing a clear picture of the current evidence and a greater understanding of how poverty and stress, low level anxiety and depression are connected. For the purposes of this study, poverty is defined as the situation where an individual’s resources, especially material ones, are substantially below their needs.


  • to conduct a multidisciplinary systematic review of the relationship between poverty and stress, low level anxiety and depression across the life course.


  • Use innovative review techniques to manage diverse evidence sources.
  • Develop a logic model to provide a concise summary of the available evidence and explore the implications for effective policy and practice.
  • Consultation with community and professional stakeholders to ensure validity and relevance.

Image courtesy of Christian using a Creative Commons license