Main location of work
Why the work is important
The surge in mental health difficulties during the pandemic, particularly in adolescents, young adults and older people has increased awareness of the need for public mental health promotion and prevention initiatives. It is clear that evidence-based innovations are needed to drive new preventative health models alongside an overhaul in how care is delivered in, and by, communities.
This Theme builds on innovative proof-of-concept work and establishes a research platform that (i) demonstrates how non-clinical approaches and PPIEP initiatives can be used to engage with minoritized populations and groups under-represented in research (ii) supports widespread enthusiasm for “social prescribing” with evidence on underlying mechanisms; and (iii) demonstrates how trusted, accessible community resources such as outdoor spaces, public institutions and workplaces could be used to deliver preventative initiatives and mental health interventions.
Three linked work packages (WP) will investigate the use of gardens, woods, workplaces and museums as “living laboratories” to support the rigorous testing of novel initiatives to identify the mechanisms that link non-clinical experiences and interventions and mental health and wellbeing outcomes.
WP1-Flourishing mechanisms: Innovations in Discovery Science.
We will identify the most tractable biological, psychosocial and environmental target mechanisms that enable flourishing, leveraging world renown expertise spanning the humanities and social sciences alongside neuroscience and biomedicine.
Fig. 1 – Multi-level Model of Mechanisms Linking Leisure-based Activities to Wellbeing Outcomes. Published in: Fancourt D, Aughterson H, Finn S, Walker E, Steptoe A. How leisure activities affect health: a narrative review and multi-level theoretical framework of mechanisms of action. Lancet Psychiatry. 2021 Apr;8(4):329-339. doi: 10.1016/S2215-0366(20)30384-9.
Fig. 2 – Framework to Guide Protocol Development for Studies Linking Nature-based Experiences to Mental Health and Wellbeing Outcomes, incorporating Human Flourishing and Planetary Health Measurement.
Developed by the NIHR OH-BRC Flourishing and Wellbeing Theme
WP2- ‘Living Laboratories’ to promote accessible and inclusive real-world research
We will develop experimental infrastructure at non-clinical sites, building on successful pilot interdisciplinary research across non-clinical settings, and the University of Oxford’s GLAM participation, involvement, and engagement resources.
WP3- Innovations to promote ethical flourishing beyond the clinic
We will build on a strong track record of co-design, co-production and engagement with groups under-represented in research to develop novel public mental health initiatives that are accessible, acceptable and relevant to a broadly diverse range of groups.
What work will be carried out
We have engaged a multi-disciplinary team with expertise across mental health science, humanities, environment and plant sciences, and economics. The research will help develop national mental health capital infrastructure and promote social justice ideals by evidencing how public institutions, workplaces, and community actors can support flourishing and mental health in all citizens, following practical ethical principles.
Patient and public involvement, engagement and participation (PPIEP)
PPIEP is fundamental to this work and there has already been three rounds of PPIEP input and co-production is incorporated into all work packages. Extending the work beyond Oxford, we will also build on expertise at the University of Birmingham and at Boingboing Social Enterprise, focusing on engaging with young people and people facing multisystemic disadvantage.
Increasing research capacity
This is a highly innovative and novel area for research, that meets significant patient need for non-clinical mental health and wellbeing support. The Theme aims to increase capacity and opportunities for interdisciplinary research to support discovery of the complex, multi-level mechanisms underlying human flourishing.