The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has received £260,000 for the 18-month project, which will focus on an impoverished brick-kiln community near Peshawar.
The money has come from the UK Research and Innovation Global Challenges Research Fund/Newton Fund and the initiative will involve the academics working with the local community to not only decide how to communicate health messages, but what key resources are required to meet public health recommendations to limit the spread of the virus.
UCLan’s Dr Victoria Moran, Dr Heather Ohly and Professor Mick McKeown will work together with local non-governmental organisation the Abaseen Foundation and colleagues at Khyber Medical University.
Dr Moran works in the School of Community Health and Midwifery. She said: "Pakistan has one of the highest numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases in the world, with potentially devastating health and economic implications for a population heavily dependent on daily incomes.
"It is important to ensure that hard-to-reach communities understand and act on public health messages to limit the spread of further coronavirus outbreaks.
“The households in these rural communities in North West Pakistan have an average income of less than one US dollar a day and many have limited access to clean water and unequal access to education and healthcare.
"We will work with the community to develop a response that is both effective and consistent with local interests. As well as finding out about best ways to engage the community to follow public health advice, the community will decide on the material resources needed to support and implement these guidelines, such as providing a clean water supply.”
She added: "We will also work with community members to produce a toolkit that will help to support communication, community engagement and risk minimisation in similar hard-to-reach communities for future health crises."
The Preston-based university already has links with the Abaseen Foundation and KMU in this area of Pakistan, which have focussed on reducing zinc and iron deficiencies among teh population there..
Helen Bingley the chief executive of the Abaseen Foundation UK, said: "Abaseen Foundation UK and PK are delighted to be working in partnership again with UCLan on this very important project.
"The hard to reach, remote and impoverished community that we are engaging with have worked with us for more than 20 years and they are very keen to be part of this project, the outcomes of which thy understand will benefit similar communities in other countries.”