16/50 Sun exposure
Please note: The Public Health Research (PHR) Programme would like to draw researchers’ attention to the commissioning brief below, which was first advertised in Spring 2016. This is a brief that we have previously advertised as a commissioned funding opportunity. We are still interested in receiving applications in this research area, as it remains a priority in our portfolio. However, please note that the commissioning brief, along with the underpinning literature searches, has not been updated since originally written.
- What interventions are effective* in promoting benefits and/or reducing harm from exposure to sunlight?
Overexposure to sunlight (ultraviolet rays) is a major risk factor for skin cancer. On the other hand, under exposure to sunlight may contribute to deficiency of Vitamin D. It is important to help people strike a balance when it comes to spending time out in the sun. Currently, there is a lack of evidence on effectiveness of interventions for promoting benefits and reducing harm of exposure to sunlight in the UK. The Public Health Research Programme is interested in proposals to address the evidence gaps identified in NICE guidance on Sunlight exposure: risks and benefits .
Research is needed to evaluate interventions for promoting the benefits of and/or reducing harm from exposure to sunlight. This may include a range of approaches such as behaviour change, environmental modification, and multicomponent interventions. Interventions may also address related health behaviours relevant to the target population, such as indoor tanning, or intake of vitamin D**. Interventions may be applied to the general population, or relevant target population at risk of over- or under- exposure to sunlight. Relevant sub-groups may be studied, identified by factors such as age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, employment, geographical location or other factors relating to risk. In July 2016, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition  made recommendations on the “population protective” reference nutrient intake (RNI) levels for vitamin D. Their report describes population groups with particularly high risk as frail older adults and other individuals not spending substantial time outdoors, those wearing concealing clothing; and people from ethnic groups with dark skin.
Primary research is required. The primary outcome must be health related, and may include behaviour change and risk reduction. Researchers should indicate how long term impact will be assessed. Proposals should be linked to underlying theory and may include a logic model to justify their approach to evaluation.
Proposals should incorporate a mechanism for public involvement. Researchers should consider the impact of the intervention on health inequalities and how this might be assessed. Where relevant, research should include a health economic evaluation to inform public health decision makers.
1. NICE Guideline 34: Sunlight exposure: risks and benefits. In. London: National Institute for Health and Care Excellence; 2016.
2. Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition. Vitamin D and Health. 2016.
*‘Effectiveness’ in this context relates not only to the size of the effect, but it also takes into account any harmful or negative side effects, including inequitable outcomes
**Interventions including intake of vitamin D should additionally take account of NICE Guideline PH56 Vitamin D: increasing supplement use in at-risk groups 2014 and guidance from the Scientific Advisory Commission on Nutrition
Studies should generate evidence to inform the implementation of single or multi-component interventions. Studies may include evidence syntheses, studies evaluating interventions, including trials, quasi- and natural experimental evaluations, and feasibility and pilot studies for these. We welcome applications for linked studies (e.g. pilot + main evaluation). Secondary analyses of existing epidemiological data and/or impact modelling studies may also be funded. We encourage the adoption of a systems perspective where appropriate to the study context. In all cases a strong justification for the chosen design and methods must be made.
The primary outcome measure of the research, if not necessarily the intervention itself, must be health-related. The positive or negative impacts of the intervention, including inequitable outcomes should be considered. Researchers are asked to indicate how long-term impacts will be assessed. All applications should identify underlying theory and include a logic model (or equivalent) to help explain underlying context, theory and mechanisms. Proposals should ensure adequate public involvement in the research.
The impacts of public health interventions are often complex and wide-reaching. Studies should acknowledge this by adopting a broad perspective, taking account of costs and benefits to all relevant sectors of society. An appropriate health economic analysis to inform cost effectiveness, affordability or return on investment should be included where appropriate. Sustainability - health, economic and environmental - are also of interest.
For all proposals, applicants should clearly state the public health utility of the outcomes and the mechanisms by which they will inform future public health policy and practice. Details about the potential pathway to impact and scalability of interventions, if shown to have an effect, should be provided, including an indication of which organisation(s) might fund the relevant intervention(s) if widely implemented.
Representatives of policy or practice communities relevant to the project should be directly engaged or involved with the development and delivery of PHR research because this produces research that is more closely grounded in, and reflective of, their concerns and makes the subsequent uptake and application of research findings more likely. By policy or practice, we mean any organisation that is involved in shaping policy or delivering public health services relevant to the research, whether at local or national levels. This might include local authorities, charities, voluntary organisations, professional bodies, commercial organisations, governmental and arms-length bodies.
We welcome proposals in which appropriate professionals (e.g. a director of public health or chief executive of a charity) are formally part of the project team as a co-applicant, and in which they play a defined role in the project. Their contribution may be to facilitate or enable research access to organisations, to be directly involved in research fieldwork, to contribute to interpretation of emerging findings, and to be involved in dissemination activity. The time of policy or practice representatives as co-applicants can be costed into the proposal, as part of the Research Costs. As with all members of a project team, an individual's equipoise should be considered before they are proposed as co-applicant of a research project. Their involvement and associated costs should be fully justified, in the same way as for academic applicants.
There are other ways in which policy or practice representative support for the proposed research can be demonstrated, such as co-opting on to a project advisory or steering group, or the inclusion of a letter or statement of support from a senior policy or practice partner from relevant organisations.
Remit of Call
All proposals submitted under this call must fall within the remit of the NIHR Public Health Research (PHR) programme. For the evaluation of time sensitive, policy driven, interventions applicants may wish to consider the fast-track work stream.
Notes about NIHR and the PHR Programme
The PHR Programme funds research to generate evidence to inform the delivery of non-NHS interventions intended to improve the health of the public and reduce inequalities in health. Our scope is multi-disciplinary and broad, covering a wide range of interventions that improve public health.
The primary aim of the programme is the evaluation of practical interventions. We will fund both primary research (mainly evaluative, but also some preparatory research) and secondary research (evidence synthesis); precise methods will need to be appropriate to the question being asked and the feasibility of the research.
Our research serves a variety of key stakeholders including: decision-makers in local government; primary care organisations and other local public services; third sector organisations; relevant national agencies (e.g. NICE) concerned with improving public health and reducing health inequalities; researchers; public health practitioners and the public.
Applicants should consider how their findings will impact upon decision making in public health practice, whether results are generalisable to other populations and affordable, setting out a clear pathway to impact. The NIHR PHR programme recognises that there is a need for an evidence base for disinvestment and that the removal of an intervention from a population can be worthy of evaluation.
The affordability of the intervention, and at least an indication of the stakeholder(s) willing to fund the intervention, should be referenced within the stage 1 application. At the stage 2 application point, statements of support confirming stakeholder commitments to funding will be required. Applicants should be aware that the NIHR PHR programme is unable to fund intervention costs.
The NIHR PHR programme is open to the joint funding of research projects with other organisations such as those in the third sector. If you would like to explore the potential for joint funding, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with details of your proposal and the other funder prior to submission.
All of our funded projects are eligible for publication in the NIHR Journals Library. This open access resource is freely available online, and provides a full and permanent record of NIHR-funded research.
Notes to Applicants
The NIHR PHR programme is funded by the NIHR, with contributions from the CSO in Scotland, Health and Care Research Wales, and HSC R&D, Public Health Agency, Northern Ireland. Researchers in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are eligible to apply for funding under this programme.
Applicants are recommended to seek advice from suitable methodological support services, at an early stage in the development of their research idea and application. The NIHR Research Design Service can advise on appropriate NIHR programme choice, and developing and designing high quality research grant applications.
The NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) supports health and social care research taking place in NHS and non-NHS settings. The CRN provides expert advice and support to plan, set up and deliver research efficiently.
Clinical Trials Units are regarded as an important component of many trial applications however, they are not essential for all types of studies to the PHR programme. The CTUs can advise and participate throughout the process from initial idea development through to project delivery and reporting. NIHR CTU Support Funding provides information on units receiving funding from the NIHR to collaborate on research applications to NIHR programmes and funded projects. In addition, the UKCRC CTU Network provides a searchable information resource on all registered units in the UK, and lists key interest areas and contact information.
In line with the government’s transparency agenda, any contract resulting from this tender may be published in its entirety to the general public. Further information on the transparency agenda is at: