It's our Science, our Society, our Health
A collaborative research project to engage young people in public health science
Project Background

The UK faces growing problems of public distrust of scientific evidence and public health advice. Distrust of science indicates, at least, need for better communication by scientists. But alongside distrust is a bigger problem – science is becoming more, not less, elitist. Poorer communities experience most illness and premature death, but they have the lowest rates of educational achievement, most limited occupational opportunities, and few become part of the scientific community.
London has one of the most disadvantaged, unhealthy, and yet, most studied UK populations – where those studied have little access to London’s scientific institutions. One means for reversing trends of distrust and elitism is through involvement of young people in London in science itself – through participatory science projects. This may lead to improved understanding and trust, with knock-on impacts on health attitudes and behavior. Involving young people could raise their aspirations and self-confidence. It may even inspire young people in a quest for scientific careers – decreasing elitism.

Our aim
Our key aim is to explore the role of "participatory epidemiology" in engaging young people from East London in science that affects their health and well-being. This is a 3 year "intervention study", where the intervention is LSHTM-supported participatory epidemiology projects undertaken by young people from three state secondary schools in the London Boroughs of Barking and Dagenham (LBBD). We use two issues, vaccination and asthma, as important tracer themes - acting as contrasting issues that concern and affect young people and disadvantaged communities particularly

Our objectives
  • To undertake a series of participatory epidemiology-based activities with young people from communities in London to investigate their key health questions related to vaccination and asthma
  • To analyse the lay science learning experience in the young people and the scientific team
  • To analyse the intervention experience for its potential as a model to improve access to science for young people
  • To produce an overall report of the findings with recommendations for possible replicability.
Our methods
To analyse the intervention we will undertake an in-depth longitudinal qualitative study exploring how participatory involvement in science affects young people (and scientists) and their mutual understanding. The project builds directly on pilot work funded by the UK Department of Transport and the European Social Fund. Project findings will be disseminated in collaboration with the school children, schools and London councils. The study will act as a model to inform future policy on the role of scientific institutions in encouraging disadvantaged young people in UK society to engage with science.

Link to original 2004 project webpages:
Pilot work:
London regional distribution of young peoples’ participation in further and higher education :
Information about Barking and Dagenham:
wellcome trust logo Barking and Dagenham logo