Research helps communities respond to COVID-19 impact

A report by researchers at the University of the Highlands and Islands says support for a growing number of people ‘hardest hit' by COVID-19 will be key to the region's recovery from the pandemic.

male and female looking at board with research findings

Mental health problems exacerbated by the pandemic and digital poverty were highlighted as key challenges as part of the research.

The research, led by the Centre for Remote and Sustainable Communities at Inverness College UHI and the Centre for Mountain Studies at Perth College UHI with the Centre for Recreation and Tourism ResearchInstitute for Northern Studies and the Environmental Research Institute, examined the impact of COVID-19 on hard-to-reach, deprived, urban communities as well as remote, rural communities across the Highlands and Islands.

The findings are already being used by community partners Merkinch Partnership, Caithness Voluntary Group, Island Smart Ltd and Kyle and Lochalsh Community Trust.

Professor Donna Heddle University of the Highlands and Islands acting vice principal (research and impact) added:

"This excellent and timely project shows what can be achieved when colleagues from across the University of the Highlands and Island partnership come together to share their interdisciplinary expertise to support our communities in challenging times. There is much to reflect on - and indeed to build on - in this report which empowered the people of the Highlands and Islands by giving them a chance to have their voices heard and their concerns and ideas taken forward.

"On a personal level, I was delighted to be co-investigator on this research project in our communities, for our communities, and undertaken in partnership with the communities themselves, which is already paving the way for further COVID-19 related projects across the globe."

Rosalind Bryce, Director of the Centre for Mountain Studies at Perth College co-led the research with Vicky Johnson, Director of the Centre for Remote and Sustainable Communities at Inverness College. She said:

"This study was an extremely valuable collaboration both with partners across UHI and also with community groups across the region. It has given us a deeper understanding of the impacts of the pandemic across diverse communities, revealed the considerable impact on mental health, shown how younger people have been particularly affected and helped us understand what measures will help communities to recover."

It was funded by the Research Uplift Fund of the Scottish Funding Council.

To read the full report, visit: Projects - Community-Determined Change-scapes of Recovery: Case studies across the Highlands and Islands of the impact and strategies for recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic (