Researchers help lead national scheme to improve health and tackle inequalities

  • £1.5 million research funding will enable local authorities to rapidly evaluate work which aims to improve health and tackle inequality
  • The response to the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgent need for further research in this area, as local authorities work to understand the impact of policies they put in place

Researchers from the University of Sheffield are part of a UK wide collaboration that will enable local authorities to rapidly evaluate work aiming to improve health and tackle inequalities in their areas.

Sheffield City Hall

The response to the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgent need for further research in this area as local authorities work to understand the impact of policies they put in place.

£1.5 million in funding research has been awarded to a collaboration led by Fuse, the Centre for Translational Research in Public Health, in partnership with the University of Sheffield, Queen’s University Belfast, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Glasgow.

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) announced its funding for this Public Health Intervention Responsive Studies Team (PHIRST), which will provide timely and accessible research to local authorities that are keen to have their work evaluated.

Academics from the University of Sheffield’s School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) are part of one of only four teams to evaluate schemes that are happening in local government across the UK.

We are more aware than ever how important it is that researchers in universities work closely with our colleagues in local authorities to understand the impact of the policies and programmes they put in place.

Professor Elizabeth Goyder, University of Sheffield

PHIRST will bring together experts with many years of experience in working with local and national government, public health practitioners and communities to undertake research that can provide evidence needed to support public health policies and programmes.

Elizabeth Goyder, Professor of Public Health at the University of Sheffield and Sheffield lead for the PHIRST programme, said: “We are more aware than ever how important it is that researchers in universities work closely with our colleagues in local authorities to understand the impact of the policies and programmes they put in place.

“The response to Covid-19 has shown the real difference we can make when we work together and the challenge now and for the future is to increase our understanding of what works so we can ensure that decisions are based on both local data and the national and international research.”

Professor Goyder is also the academic lead for the Yorkshire and Humber Practice and Research Collaborative (PaRC) which has a mission to bridge the gap between research and public health practice, and links academic institutions with local authority based public health practitioners across the region.

The PaRC team were also involved in bringing two further PHIRST projects to Yorkshire. Both projects will address important public health priorities for the region: tackling obesity and drugs and alcohol misuse. The projects will explore the impact of the remote provision of drugs and alcohol services in Leeds and the introduction of advertising restrictions to reduce exposure to adverts for food that are high in fat, salt and sugar on the transport system across Yorkshire.

Professor Ashley Adamson from Newcastle University will lead the PHIRST collaboration. She said: “We understand the major challenges that face local government in being able to undertake local research and evaluation, particularly in a time of financial austerity.

“These challenges will be made even greater by the current COVID-19 pandemic, which will have an immense and long-term impact on the health and wellbeing of our communities, particularly for communities and individuals who are already less well-off and in poorer health.”

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