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What is HERON?

The Health inequalities Research Network (HERON) is a research and public engagement network launched in 2011, currently funded by the Wellcome Trust, comprising of community members and organisations, researchers and healthcare practitioners. Focussing on mental health and the interface between mental and physical health, HERON aims to raise critical awareness of, help people share experiences about, and identify ways to reduce inequalities in health and healthcare.

What do we do?

Lead and support research and evaluation work which involves people experiencing, or at risk of, inequalities in mental health or healthcare. Increasingly, this incorporates co-design and coproduction of research with our local and national community partners. Lead and support public engagement activities to create dialogue and promote action. These activities focus on promoting diversity and inclusion, incorporating multiple formats of engagement (e.g. through photography, physical activity, research methods training, music).

Our ethos

Our work is founded on the principles of:

  • Sustainability
  • Equality, diversity and inclusivity
  • Social justice

Where do we work?

HERON is based at King’s College London in South East London. We work locally, nationally and internationally through links with our community, practice and academic partners. We also build links with non-academic groups to broaden geographical spread and impact.

Aims of the Network

  • To provide a forum for health practitioners, researchers and community members to share experiences and information and work together to further understand the problems influencing health inequalities
  • To highlight and work towards reducing health inequalities through integrated research and engagement activities


  • HERON supports a variety of public engagement projects that provide different forums for highlighting, discussing and acting on health inequalities. This includes events using different types of media such as art, photography, performance and podcasting, and also physical exercise and schools-based training in research methods.
  • HERON hosts conferences, seminars, public talks and other events to talk about health inequalities with a variety of non-academic and academic stakeholders · HERON partners with community organisations for engagement projects and to advise or support evaluation activities
  • HERON supports a number of research projects being conducted at King’s College London that investigate health inequalities, including the South East London Community Health (SELCoH)Study, the Tackling Inequalities and Discrimination Experiences in Health Services (TIDES) Study and The HYPE (improving the Health of Young PeoplE) Project.

Past and current events:

HERON Conference 2014 – The first HERON conference - which included sessions and posters and discussions - provided a forum in which health practitioners, researchers and community members could share their experiences and information in order to further understand inequalities in health and healthcare.

Keynote Speaker:

Professor David R Williams – Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, US

HERON Conference 2018 - The 2018 HERON conference included presentations, workshops, discussion, art and more on the theme of ‘current and future directions in health equity research and action’ from researchers, community organisations, and healthcare representatives. The conference took a future-orientated perspective to explore how we can learn from present research and tackle inequalities through future research and action.

Keynote Speakers:

Dr Denese Shervington - Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies, New Orleans, US Cllr Jacqui Dyer - Black Thrive, London, UK Dr Rakhee Shah - Association of Young People’s Health, London, UK

RISE (Research methods In School Education) – was initially funded by King’s Widening Participation and was established in 2016 as a collaboration between researchers from HERON and The REACH (Resilience, Ethnicity and AdolesCent mental Health) Study.

RISE aims to engage young people on the topic of health inequalities, deliver research methods training and inspire young people to think critically about local community health. By creatively engaging local secondary school and sixth form students currently underrepresented on KCL undergraduate psychology and other health-related programmes, including nursing and medicine, the project also aims to encourage young people to stay in education and develop a career in science and health-related professions.

Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) Youth Awards - part of the wider Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) Youth Awards, established in 2013 and set up by Dr Margaret Heslin.

The awards are open to all young people aged 15 to 18 attending schools in South East London. The winners receive a £50 book token, a year of mentoring from a researcher and two days of work experience at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London.

UP&RUNNING/United.One For All – Initially funded by the Maudsley Charity ,

UP&RUNNING aims to promote self-management and recovery among young people experiencing early signs or symptoms of poor health, through physical activities. Our UP&RUNNING 2019-2020 programme will focus on engaging 16’s and over, especially those who are not in employment, education or training, or those at risk of becoming so. Our goal is to promote exercise as part of the holistic and integrative approach to mental wellbeing and include principles of the 5 Ways to Wellbeing (connect, learn, be active, give and take notice).

To do this, we aim to introduce young people to new activities through free training and taster sessions in boxing, running, football, general strength and conditioning, yoga, mindfulness and more! In addition, we aim to connect young people in a social, fun and non-judgmental environment.

South East London Photography (SELPh) - launched in November 2011, the group was founded by Billy Gazard, Wojtek Wojcik and Anthony Wallace in association with the HERON Network and funding from the South London and the Maudsley Charity. The project initially used photography to talk about everyday experiences but now uses a variety of media to highlight experiences and health inequalities. SELPh’s mission is to use a variety of media so that marginalised groups have the opportunity to represent themselves and voice their opinions to contribute to a dialogue on health and well-being.

Spoken Word In The Community Hubs (S.W.I.T.C.H) - In collaboration with Battersea Arts Centre, poet Jemilea Wisdom-Baako of Writerz and Scribez and artist Kay Rufai, S.W.I.T.C.H. is a project aimed at reaching audiences that feel excluded from conventional arts organisations, exploring how to increase arts participation. It involves removing barriers by placing the art in community hubs such as barbershops, youth provisions, salons and restaurants – going to people rather than expecting them to come to us. HERON and the HYPE project are supporting the formative evaluation of S.W.I.T.C.H. to explore whether and why people experiencing community-based projects are more likely to engage with creative arts workshops or events in future.

Soothsayers Music Workshops - A chance to enjoy practicing and performing with acclaimed Brixton based band Soothsayers, who’s music combines afrobeat, dub/reggae and jazz, in association with NIHR Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre.

HERON Origami – This activity was launched on World Mental Health Day 2019 at a Maudsley Charity event in south London. Following a successful initial workshop, additional workshops were held for staff at King’s College London and for mental health nurses at the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust.

Beyond the HYPE - A podcast series co-created by researchers, and young people. Participants are offered an opportunity to train in designing and editing their own podcast episode. The series presents discussion around young people’s health and wellbeing, including the link between physical exercise and health, social welfare issues, discrimination, inequalities.