We are delighted to announce Dharmi Kapadia as one of our UK Data Service Data Impact Fellows. Dharmi is a Research Associate at the ESRC Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity at The University of Manchester, talks about how she plans for her research findings to be heard and have impact outside of academia.
Most researchers start their careers hoping that their unique research projects will make a difference to the world. Whether the aim is to directly influence people’s lives for the better, change government policy or encourage public debate on important contemporary issues. This was certainly the case for me when I first became interested in access to mental health services for ethnic minority groups, ten years ago. The ‘dream’ at that stage was to influence Department of Health mental health race equality policies with my future research.
Now I am a Research Associate at ESRC The Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity at The University of Manchester researching ethnic inequalities in mental health. I completed my PhD in 2015: an examination of how social networks influence women’s use of mental health services in the UK, using a cross sectional survey Ethnic Minority Psychiatric Illness Rates in the Community (EMPIRIC) and the largest longitudinal survey in the UK, Understanding Society. I’ve already published two academic articles from my PhD; a systematic review and an empirical paper. One of my findings was that Pakistani and Bangladeshi women were less likely to use mental health services than White women in the UK, and this was after I had taken into consideration many factors (including how old they were, their socioeconomic characteristics and the type of social networks they had). But I wonder whether I’m really making any impact with the research. So what if I’ve published two articles? What about the ethnic minority women that these findings affect? What about the front line mental health professionals that might benefit from hearing the results? This is why I was so pleased when I was told that I was awarded a UK Data Service Data Impact Fellowship.
As part of the Fellowship, I’d like to organise a number of specific activities to give the findings of my research a chance to be heard and have impact outside of academia. First, I’d like to facilitate some focus groups with women from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds to see if what I found using survey data, is something that they have encountered in their lives, with a focus on hearing their ideas on how the provision of mental health services could be changes. Second, I would to become a member of the National Elf Service, a service which publicises academic research to health and social care professionals. The membership would allow me to connect more directly with health professionals who would benefit from my research findings. This National Elf Service also publishes a specialist mental health blog, The Mental Elf Blog, where I could post articles about my research findings targeted at mental health professionals. Over the next two years, I will also be working on other research projects from which, I think, it is imperative that we try to create real and lasting impact. I will work on a large project funded by Lankelly Chase looking at racist discrimination in mental health services in the UK, and how co-production can be used to overcome the challenges that ethnic minority mental health services users face.
There is one other major area where I would like to have impact: mental health race equality policy. This will be a particular challenge, especially because since 2010 there hasn’t been a race equality policy for mental health services after the end of the Delivering Race Equality Programme. My findings point to potential discriminatory practices by GPs and mental health professionals when referring Pakistani and Bangladeshi women to specialist mental health services, resulting in an under-use of these services by these women. As part of the Data Impact Fellowship, I’ll be thinking of creative ways in which I can put race back on the agenda for the Department of Health. Granted this will be difficult as an individual, I believe that as researchers we need to take on the challenge and inform the government and the public of important findings which can have an impact on society.