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Public Health Intervention Responsive Studies Teams projects to date


The PHIRST scheme

The PHIRST scheme links up academic teams with local authorities to evaluate work that is already happening in local government across the UK. A blog by Helen Walters, NIHR Public Health Consultant Advisor provides the thinking behind its creation.

Local authorities with initiatives in need of research by the PHIRST scheme can apply to the PHR programme advertised call which is currently open for applications until 10th January 2022.

To date, four PHIRST teams have been commissioned and we are currently commissioning a fifth PHIRST team to start evaluating initiatives in 2022.

The PHIRST scheme is currently supporting evaluation of the nine initiatives listed below. The teams are also working closely with other Local Authorities to assess research needs and coproduce research plans for a further 15 Local Authority projects.

PHIRST North team

Led by Professor Ashley Adamson

This team is evaluating the effectiveness of a newly commissioned employability service in Scotland, through the 'No one left behind' project, and the impact of South Gloucestershire Councils Public Space Management programme on their populations health through the 'COVID-19 Public Spaces Management' project.

PHIRST Bristol and Cardiff team

Led by Professor Rona Campbell

This team are evaluating a London based intervention, 'Free universal breakfast club and secondary school meals' project. The research will focus on the intervention's impact on attainment, health, financial and social benefits. This team are also evaluating the impact of Mindset Teams for supporting Resilience, Health and Wellbeing in primary-aged school children in Scotland.

PHIRST London team

Led by Associate Professor Susie Sykes

This team are evaluating the impact of restricted food and drink advertising on children through their London-based project 'A realist evaluation of a public health community of practice advocacy project to restrict outdoor advertising (HFSS)'. Their second project is evaluating the impact of a digital community approach and non-traditional service delivery through the 'Essex Coronavirus Action Support (EAS) , Essex Welfare Service (EWS)' project. A third, Hertfordshire council-based project,  Evaluation of the development of a specialist behaviour change unit and its contribution to local government, is now underway.

PHIRST University of Hertfordshire team

Led by Professor Katherine Brown and Professor Wendy Wills

This team are evaluating the move to remote services for drugs and alcohol services in Leeds through their project 'New models of remote delivery in drug and alcohol services introduced during COVID-19'. Their second project is evaluating the impact of delivering a remote exercise referral scheme in Wales through the 'Evaluating the adaptation of delivery of the National Exercise Referral Scheme (NERS) to a virtual platform as a result of COVID-19' project. They have recently started a project to evaluate the pilot of a Whole Systems Approach to Diet and Healthy Weight Community Project, led by the Type 2 Diabetes Prevention programme in Scotland.