The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) has today (Thursday, 16 September) reaffirmed its commitment to public health research by awarding a third round of funding to its School for Public Health Research (SPHR), which includes a collaboration between the universities of Liverpool and Lancaster, the LiLaC initiative.
The next round of the school, which has been awarded £25 million from April 2022, will advance and extend the school’s current research themes of children, young people and families; public mental health; and places and communities.
Established in April 2012, the renewed NIHR SPHR is an extended partnership between nine leading centres of academic public health research excellence across England.
The school aims to build the evidence base for effective public health practice by bringing together England’s leading public health research expertise in one virtual organisation. The school conducts applied public health research to increase the volume and quality evidence on cost-effective interventions and supports local public health practitioners and policy makers to engage with research and seek out research evidence to inform their decisions.
The lead investigators from the LiLaC collaboration are Professors David Taylor-Robinson, Sarah Rodgers and Ben Barr from Liverpool and Professors Jennie Popay and Bruce Hollingsworth from Lancaster.
David Taylor-Robinson from Liverpool University said: “We are delighted to be part of the third quinquennium of the NIHR School for Public Health Research as part of the LiLaC collaboration with our colleagues at Lancaster University. LiLaC is an inaugural member of the SPHR and we’ve made a major contribution to the success of the school over the past 10 years. Our research has demonstrated the causes of rising inequalities in health in England, with life expectancy going backwards, particularly for women in the most disadvantaged areas in the North of England, even before the pandemic – in the same areas affected by rising poverty and cuts to services that support health. Through SPHR we will continue to respond to the grand challenge of reducing health inequalities in collaboration with other members of the collaboration, and with our local partners.”
Professors Jennie Popay and Bruce Hollingsworth from Lancaster University said: “North West England has a heavy burden of health inequalities and the social inequalities in living and working conditions that create these. Our team will bring into SPHR diverse disciplines drawn from across the university. With our colleagues at Liverpool University we are committed to working with other members of SPHR to produce research evidence that supports action to improve population health and reduce inequalities and to build capacity for doing and using research in our universities. with our local authority partners and in partnership with local people and communities around the region”.
Director of the SPHR Professor Ashley Adamson said: “I am thrilled that SPHR has received further funding to continue its world-class public health research, influencing policy and practice in the UK. Working in partnership with those developing and delivering public health means we have the most relevant and important questions. I’m honoured to continue as Director of NIHR SPHR, working with excellent academic and practice colleagues and members of the public to drive forward our research agenda to meet the evidence needs to reduce inequalities in health and improve the health of the public. I am delighted that our capacity building funding creates further opportunity for SPHR to work with the NIHR Academy and others to build a future public health workforce equipped for the challenges ahead”.
With the Government’s increasing attention on prevention and public health research and how we recover from the pandemic, the contribution of the school is of strategic importance to the Department of Health and Social Care.
Prof. Lucy Chappell, NIHR Chief Executive, said: “The NIHR’S investment in the School for Public Health Research has generated valuable local evidence that has informed Local Authority spending and planning to improve child health and create healthier neighbourhoods. With the new £25m, the NIHR SPHR will continue to address key challenges in public health while expanding geographic reach and ensuring research takes place where it is needed most.”
Following an open competition, the other members of the School include the Universities of Sheffield, Cambridge, Bristol, Exeter, Imperial College, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, a collaboration with the Universities of Birmingham, Warwick and Keele (PHRESH) and Fuse, Centre for Translational Research in Public Health (Newcastle, Durham, Teesside, Northumbria and Sunderland Universities).