Working towards health equality and social inclusion for people with learning disabilities
Colleague spotlight | Kris Southby
I am a research fellow in the Centre for Health Promotion Research in the School of Health. I live in Wakefield with my wife, two young children and our cat.
Tell us a bit about you and what led you to working with the School of Health
I joined the Centre for Health Promotion Research in 2014 as a research assistant. I then progressed to being a research officer and then into my current position as research fellow. Before joining LBU, I worked for the learning disability charity Mencap, first as a volunteer researcher and then as an employment co-ordinator in Chapel Allerton. My job was to support adults with a learning disability into paid or voluntary work and to help improve their work-related skills. And before that I was studying for my PhD at Durham University. My PhD was about people with a learning disability as football fans and the opportunities this creates for social inclusion.
What makes you passionate about your work around health promotion and why is it important?
I’ve wanted to work in academia since I was a postgraduate student. I really like finding out new information, knowing how things work, and creating and sharing new knowledge, so being a researcher is ideal. With colleagues, I do research mainly about health inequalities – why some groups of people experience poorer health than others – and about how the voluntary and community sector (VCS) supports the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities. This is important because good health and wellbeing is an internationally recognised human right and I like that I can contribute to this – albeit indirectly. I also do some research about what supports good wellbeing for adults with a learning disability. I’ve been personally involved in the learning disability field my whole life, so I like that I can make a positive contribution in this area too.
How is collaboration integral to your work, and what are one or two collaborations that have been most meaningful to you?
Pretty much all of my work involves some kind of collaboration. I work with colleagues in the Centre for Health Promotion Research on different research projects. We also work closely with non-academic staff in the School, in enterprise, operations and administration, and in external relations to ensure projects are delivered successfully. Most of my work also involves collaboration with external partners. This can be academics from other universities but also local and national government, the NHS, and voluntary and community sector organisations.
I like when myself and colleagues collaborate with academics from more traditionally research-active universities. I think it shows the strength of our work that they want to work with us. I also like that we tend to work in a ‘participatory’ way with the people, communities and organisations we are doing research about. This means that we involve them in the research process – either helping us design the research or actually helping us do the work. I think it makes the work that we do better and more relevant. I also think it makes it more beneficial to the people, communities and organisations involved.
What achievements in this area have you been most proud of while working in the School of Health?
I’m proud of lots of things about my work at LBU. I am proud that the research work I do can make a difference to supporting health and wellbeing in the real world. I am proud that I contribute to the generating and sharing of new knowledge through publishing research work. I’m also proud that I have been able to progress in my career while at LBU – from research assistant to research officer to research fellow – and hopefully this will continue.