PROJECT – Life Course

Mid-Life Conversations

5 February 2021

In September 2018, the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health held an interdisciplinary conference called “Midlife Conversations”. The conference brought together scholars from across many disciplines, including history, biology, literature, psychology, sociology, and film studies, along with artists and members of the public, to explore the concept of mid-life.

The following publication has arisen from the outputs of that conference. We invite you to enjoy the provocations and short pieces of writing that emerged from this conference below.


PROJECT – Life Course

Beacon: Healthy Relationships

26 February 2020

The Centre’s Beacon Projects aspire to exemplify the ways in which the Centre aims to create and sustain cultures and environments of health through transdisciplinary engaged research.


Transforming relationships and relationship transitions with and for the next generation: Healthy Relationship Education (HeaRE) and Transitions (HeaRT).

Professor Anne Barlow
Dr Tamsin Newlove-Delgado
Dr Jan Ewing
Simon Benham-Clarke

This project is a partnership between the Law School, the Medical School, and the Graduate School of Education. Our work is concerned with transitions into and out of relationships across the life course and their impact on mental and physical health. We focus in particular on children and young people, in terms of how they can develop the skills needed to have healthy relationships in the future, and how they might be supported to cope with parental relationship breakdown and future relationship transitions of their own. Public narratives around marriage, divorce and relationship breakdown often make expectations around transitioning into and out of relationships intended to be long term, mismatched with reality. Relationships and sex education will form part of the curriculum from September 2020, yet evidence suggests many schools are not well prepared to deliver the aspects which focus on healthy relationships rather than on sex.

Evidence from two projects, the Shackleton Relationships Project and Mapping Paths to Family Justice, showed an appetite among young people for:
· more education at school (which they help to develop) about how to build positive relationships and handle ‘normal’ relationship difficulties
· more information, and for their views to be better represented in mediation processes following parental relationship breakdown

In the HeaRE strand, we are currently exploring the best ways to co-develop messages and materials about healthy relationships together with young people which can be used in schools, based on the core attributes and key skills identified by the Shackleton project. We are also carrying out qualitative research to better understand young people’s perspectives on the most important outcomes of relationship education, which will inform further work on outcome measurement and evaluation.

In the HeaRT strand of this programme, we are focussing on the impact of parental relationship breakdown on children and young people, and how young people and adults can learn skills to cope better with transitioning into and out of a range of relationships across the life course. In particular, we are considering how to make child-inclusive mediation better understood and more accessible for parents and children as well as build wider practitioner confidence in the process. To this end, we are working with mediation agencies, the Family Justice Young People’s Board and relationship experts, as well as interviewing both professionals and families who have participated in child-inclusive mediation.

In a final conference, the findings from the two strands will be brought together to look at how relationship education and family justice processes can normalise relationship transitions, help give voice to young people and build appropriate skills to help them make healthy relationship choices and cope better with relationship difficulties – their own or their parents.




PROJECT – Life Course

TRA: Dance, health and well-being

1 August 2019

Transformative Research Awards support novel, innovative and interesting research that moves beyond established divisions and dichotomies to enable insight, debate and new approaches to current health challenges.

Dance, Health and Well-being: debating and moving forward methodologies

It is now widely agreed that there is considerable evidence of the positive benefits of dance in developing physical aspects of health and fitness. Building on this, this eighteen-month research project has sought to develop understanding of the under-researched aesthetic, artistic and creative contributions that dance makes to health and wellbeing across the lifecourse. In particular it focused on what kinds of methodologies are appropriate for investigating these contributions, and how these methodologies can generate findings which extend how we understand the impact of the arts on health and wellbeing.

The research has taken a transdisciplinary approach, bringing together arts education and community research and practice, together with dance science and dance health practice. This is represented in the research team which has been led by Associate Professor Kerry Chappell from the University of Exeter, Graduate School of Education, working together with colleagues Professor Emma Redding, Veronica Jobbins and Dr Rebecca Stancliffe at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, Dr Sue Smith at Dance in Devon, and Ursula Crickmay also from the Graduate School of Education, University of Exeter.

The questions we asked:

  • What are the aesthetic, artistic and creative contributions that Dance makes to Health and Wellbeing across the lifecourse?
  • What methodologies (mixed/innovative?) are appropriate for investigating these contributions?
  • How can findings challenge/respond to the impact agenda?

What we did:

  • A systematic literature review (available here: was undertaken to articulate the current state of understanding of the aesthetic, artistic and creative contributions that dance makes to health and wellbeing across the lifecourse within evaluation reports and peer-reviewed articles, including English-language literature from 2000 to 2019.
  • Focus group discussions were conducted with dance and health practitioners, participants and other stakeholders to seek their opinions and experiences of how dance contributes to health, and to debate how they have been involved in researching creativity and artistry. The findings are being disseminated through a project report.
  • A symposium, hosted by the University of Exeter Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health, took place online on 19 April 2021 to share the results of the research, and to debate and extend the findings. The recording and presentations from the event can be found on the links below:

D and H Symposium Presentation 1

D and H Symposium Presentation 2 – Stakeholder Perspectives

Project Report

You can read the 2021HUMS002 Dance, Health and Wellbeing Report FINAL.

Systematic Literature Review

You can read the Systematic Literature Review here.


Project Partners

University of Exeter, Graduate School of Education: Creativity and Emergent Educational-Future Network

Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance

Dance in Devon


Project leader

Kerry Chappell

PROJECT – Life Course

RIA: Building for maternal health

12 July 2019

Research Initiation Awards are small awards open only to people or organisations from outside the university. Our aim is to support individual people or community organisations to begin to build the relationships or help create the conditions that could initiate future engaged research.

Planting a seed during a drought – working for maternal health in Orus, Kenya

The Research Initiation Award was used to develop a collaboration between STEMA Health System Innovation, MAMA Kenya (Maternal Aid for Mothers in Africa, a local NGO based in Eldoret, Kenya), Global Health Disrupted and the village of Orus in Kenya. We are collectively interested in looking at how built environment maternal health interventions can be embedded in a health ecosystem and how a multi-disciplinary team could work with communities to generate ideas on how best to develop a maternal health space.

Diagrams drawn in sandy soil

Participatory mapping literally ‘on the ground’

We held participatory workshops with the community of Orus in Western Kenya to understand their barriers to and resources for health, looking at how we could collectively form ideas for a community space for maternal health by learning about vernacular building techniques, local agricultural knowledge and maternal health expertise and the community health system. Working with the village elders, women, men and community health workers, we hoped to co-create ideas about how a community can develop its own resourcefulness for health and integrate health and environmental care by looking at co-designing a community health space and agricultural intervention.

Group of women meeting together - Orus, Kenya

Women’s group meeting – sharing journeys and birth stories

The award allowed us to bring together this partnership of global health researchers, medical doctors, architects, inclusive designers, community health workers and the community of Orus to look at creative ways to develop the most appropriate and ‘resourceful’ ideas for health, and specifically maternal health. In particular, the award gave us the resources to support and bring together the community as part of the research, which is fundamental to our work.

We identified a system of challenges to maternal health in the community, which encompass social, political and environmental barriers to good health. The climate and the support the community were identified as key challenges, a participatory and systems thinking approach going forward will be essential.

Our fieldwork is ongoing and the MAMA team has begun the first phase of interventions through initiating training for the local traditional birth attendants. We are writing up our fieldwork and recently exhibited the fieldwork in the ‘Design Research for Change Showcase’ at the London Design Fair.

Project leader:

Mikaela Patrick, Research Associate at STEMA


Global Health Disrupted
The Orus Community

PROJECT – Life Course

RIA: We Hear You

12 July 2019

Research Initiation Awards are small awards open only to people or organisations from outside the university. Our aim is to support individual people or community organisations to begin to build the relationships or help create the conditions that could initiate future engaged research.

The impact of a cancer diagnosis on close relationships

We Hear You (WHY) is a charity based in east Somerset. WHY provides a free professional counselling service for anyone affected by a diagnosis of cancer or other life-threatening condition.

Cancer can have a huge impact on close relationships, with more than 20% of relationships breaking down. It is an issue that comes up frequently in our counselling work. The counselling that WHY provides is available for patients and carers; we know the strain that a cancer diagnosis can bring, changing relationship dynamics and connections. WHY is aware that there is little research into the psychological impact on relationships when there is a cancer diagnosis, and we wanted to understand this in more depth, to help us improve our knowledge and how we support our clients.

WHY used this funding to convene a workshop at our head office with eight service users (current and previous) to start to understand how this change in relationship dynamics has affected their close connections.

Cancer affects men and women fairly equally and for this piece of work WHY was particularly interested  to speak to men, who are currently under-represented in our service.

This project was the first phase in a larger piece of work that WHY wanted to undertake. Engaging with those that have used our service is a vital part of our work and helps us as a charity to shape the service we deliver to best meet the needs of those that we support. The workshop was the beginning of a co-creation process to enhance how WHY provides support to families affected by cancer, and will feed into our broader service development plans, where we have secured funding to train two counsellors in couples therapy skills.

Project update

WHY was awarded one of the Centre’s Transformative Research Awards to carry out further research to understand the transformative impact of cancer on close relationships.

PROJECT – Life Course

RSF: Well-being outcomes

12 July 2019

The Research Support Funding scheme supported 13 short (six-month) projects that complemented and extended the Centre’s research themes: Transforming Institutions, Transforming Engagement, Transforming Health across the life course and Transforming Relations.

Generating evidence of well-being outcomes from community engagement and social infrastructures

Workshop date: 24th September 2019 

The background

A group of community representatives in rural southern Zambia shared how they felt hopeless and isolated: maternal and infant mortality are high; nutrition and health access are poor. Engagement with external facilitators and an international network of collaborative communities stimulated local connections and the formation of a collaborative local ‘Cluster’ that leveraged collective strengths to improve well-being. This cluster has improved health access, sanitation and maternal health. There has been a shift of mindset and a ripple effect that has led to new clusters.

This project is looking at how community engagement and action (in the UK and internationally) can improve health and well-being, by sharing testimonies and co-creating, with communities, academics and practitioners, ways to measure health and well-being.

What we did 

Arukah workshop discussions

Participants at the workshop

In September 2019, we held a workshop that brought a group of practitioners and academics together to look at approaches to, and measures of, community-led improvements in health and wellbeing, and think about what future work is needed to strengthen and measure these approaches.



A few of the organisations that were represented on the day: 

Some of the questions we asked:

  • How might donors and policymakers better support complex and subjective community-led change?
  • Community-led improvements in health and wellbeing: anecdotes, barriers, enablers
  • What methods can we use to measure community-led improvements in health and wellbeing?
  • How might donors, policymakers and others understand and pay attention to the different kinds of subjective evidence? (e.g. evaluative, experience, eudemonic).
  • What might be possible if community-led change approaches were adopted in other fields (beyond health and development)?

What we’d like to do next

  • We’d like to hold further discussions to share our methods of impact measurement with funders, and talk about the challenges we have with their traditional way of working.
  • Arukah would like to explore how complexity theory might affect or inform our work, given our network-based approach.
  • We’d like to arrange further meetings with C2 and other groups to continue to share learning, challenges, advice and support.
  • We’d like to seek constructive feedback from donors (from both successful and unsuccessful applications) and collate this information, then share the kinds of questions they’re asking and the challenges they have with our models.

Read the full report: Arukah Network WCCEH Report.

Project Partners

Elizabeth Wainwright
The Arukah Network

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