PHIRST: Public Health Intervention Responsive Studies Team



National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), Public Health Research (PHR) Ref.NIHR131567.

What is the research question?

This funding is for a team of researchers who can be deployed to study/evaluate several different interventions in public health.

What is the problem?

Public health covers any activity or ‘intervention’ that helps people live a healthier life or stops them getting ill from diseases like cancer or ‘flu. We need high quality research to improve public health and keep everyone as healthy as possible, whatever their background or situation.

Local authorities and other groups such as charities have a big role to play in public health. The National Institute for Health Research’s (NIHR) PHIRST scheme wants to help them to do this by funding teams of academic researchers to work with them.

A group of academics working at Bristol and Cardiff Universities will work with local authorities, and with the public, to plan and carry out research which will give information about what works best to improve people’s health.

What is the aim of the research?

It is likely the NIHR will want us to research six different local authority or other public health interventions over three years to see if they are working well.

For each intervention, we would work out which organisations and public partners need to be involved and produce a brief research plan.

Once the NIHR agree for our plan to go ahead, we would set up a group to manage the study made up of researchers, public health professionals and public partners. This group would work together to develop a detailed research plan, carry out the research and share the findings widely. A programme management group made up of researchers, health professionals and public partners would supervise the overall progress of all the studies.

How will this be achieved?

At Bristol and Cardiff Universities there are a wide range of experience and knowledge covering all the different areas that are important to public health. These include alcohol problems, giving up smoking, mental health and staying healthy in later life.

The academics are also experienced in the different research methods that will be needed, such as statistics and economics. The team have good links with other public health researchers in the UK who can give specialist advice if needed. The team also have lots of experience of public health policy and practice in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Our Universities train many people to work in public health research and practice, and will use this experience to train the people that we work with from local government and other groups.

Previous research from these groups have led to changes that improve public health practice.

This will be done for the PHIRST studies by sharing the findings in many forms, including policy briefings, webinars, conference presentations, videos, blogs and academic articles. The PHIRST team will also meet and talk to decision-makers so they know what changes are needed based on the research. Public partners will be involved to make sure that the findings are widely available to the public in ways that are easy to understand.

Who is leading the research?

Prof Rona Campbell, Professor of Public Health Research, Population Health Sciences, University of Bristol.

Further information:

About this research

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The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.