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Public Health Research Programme

The Public Health Research (PHR) Programme funds research that generates evidence to improve the health of the public and reduce health inequalities.

We want to help researchers address critical population health issues, like climate change.

Latest funding opportunities for Public Health Research

All Public Health Research funding opportunities

Scope of funding

We focus on funding health-related research into services that:

  • are not provided or funded by the NHS
  • can be rolled out on a large scale
  • have potential to create sustainable, population-level changes

We are particularly interested in studies that focus on the wider determinants of health and will generally ask for health-related outcome measures.

What do we fund?

We fund studies that evaluate the impact on health and health inequalities of real-world interventions in the UK. This includes:

  • Natural experiments
  • Secondary research
  • Studies using a wide range of quantitative and qualitative methodologies, including modelling studies
  • Interventions that may not conventionally be seen as public health interventions but have an impact on health and health inequalities
  • Studies that employ longitudinal datasets and attempt to link data across sectors when relevant to studying the broader determinants of health

A limited amount of intervention development before evaluation, including feasibility studies

This list is not exhaustive. If you have a research idea that addresses crucial population health issues and has the potential for significant impact at scale, please contact us to discuss your ideas.

Please email 

Multidisciplinary research proposals

We encourage multi-disciplinary research proposals led-by, or involving, researchers from outside the disciplines usually associated with public health.

This is particularly important given our intention to focus on population health priorities such as climate change.

What we don't fund

We do not fund:

  • studies of specific disease or condition
  • treatments research where primary outcomes are social care outcomes. See our Research programme for Social Care
  • the development of new websites, apps, or software.

If you are unsure if your proposal is within our remit, please contact for advice.

Projects we have funded

Examples of PHR-funded research include:

View details of the public health research we have funded on our Funding and Awards website

How to apply for funding

We fund research through two routes: commissioned and researcher-led work streams.

Criteria for funding

We will consider applications for funding that:

  1. demonstrate value to public health
  2. maintain high scientific quality
  3. make an impact to people’s lives
  4. provide value for money

There is no upper limit to the amount of funding that researchers can apply for.

Commissioned funding

View all PHR Programme funding opportunities

Researcher-led work streams

If you have an idea for a research study and it meets the criteria outlined above, you can apply for funding from us.

You can submit an application at any point. Our funding calls have cut-off dates throughout the year.

See Researcher-led PHR Programme funding calls

Help with your application

Tips for success

Research Support Service Specialist Centre for Public Health

Application process

You will need to create an account and log into the Research Awards Lifecycle Management System (REALMS) to submit and manage your funding application or proposal.

Our committees consider applications, usually as part of a two-stage assessment process. See the Committees section below for more information. 

Fast-track scheme

While most research supported by the PHR Programme follows a two-stage assessment process, we recognise that there may be instances where research needs to be accelerated.

The fast-track scheme provides an opportunity to submit a stage 2 proposal directly, shortening the length of time it takes for a funding decision to be made.

The fast-track scheme is particularly suitable for situations where research needs to start within a limited timeframe, such as natural experiments.

If you believe your proposal should be considered for the fast-track scheme, please email and we will consider it.

You will need to:

  • convince the secretariat that there is significant benefit to fast-tracking your application, and
  • submit a written summary of your proposal (usually about one side of A4) in a PICO format.

Help with your application

Tips for success

Research Support Service Specialist Centre for Public Health


Who identifies and prioritises research topics? Prioritisation Committee

The PHR Prioritisation Committee helps identify and prioritise:

  • research topics
  • stage 1 proposals

based on public health importance.

Professor Brian Ferguson is Prioritisation Committee Chair and PHR Programme Director.

See PHR Programme Prioritisation Committee members

Who assesses funding applications? Funding Committee

The PHR Funding Committee assesses applications that have passed stage 1. They are assessed on:

  • scientific quality
  • feasibility
  • value for money

Professor Peymane Adab is Funding Committee Chair.

See PHR Programme Funding Committee members

Committee minutes and outcomes

See all Public Health Committee meeting minutes and outcomes

Conflicts of interest

Committee members need to declare any conflicts of interest annually.

Conflicts of interest register

Findings from our research

The findings from the research we fund help: decision-makers in local and national government voluntary sector organisations national agencies concerned with improving public health and reducing health inequalities researchers public health practitioners

Find NIHR published evidence and ongoing research to help with data analysis and improving health in your area:

Evidence and research for public health

More information

Who funds the PHR Programme?

The PHR Programme is funded by the NIHR, with contributions from the:

Contact and more information

Please email

Find out more about how we support Public health research at NIHR:

Public health research

See how researchers are working with local authorities to boost research in communities and tackle health inequalities, through our Health Determinants Research Collaborations (HDRCs)

See how Public Health Intervention Responsive Studies Teams (PHIRST) are evaluating health initiatives