This site is optimised for modern browsers. For the best experience, please use Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Microsoft Edge.

Beta

We welcome your feedback, which will help improve this site.

Feedback form

Public Health Research

The Public Health Research (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.

 

 

 

The Public Health Research (PHR) Programme is funded by the NIHR, with contributions from the CSO in Scotland, Health and Care Research Wales and the HSC R&D Division, Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland.

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.

We fund research through our commissioned and researcher-led workstreams. The researcher-led workstream offers the flexibility for ambitious evaluations of public health interventions. If a case can be made for public health importance, scientific quality and value for money, there is no upper limit to the amount of funding that can be applied for and applications can be made at any point, with three cut-off dates throughout the year. Multi-factorial research will be considered.

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.

Our scope is multi-disciplinary and broad, covering a wide range of interventions that improve public health.

The programme funds research to generate evidence to inform the delivery of non-NHS interventions, specifically, we provide new knowledge on the benefits, costs, acceptability and wider impacts of non-NHS interventions intended to improve the health of the public and reduce inequalities in health.

Proposed primary outcome measures should always be health-related, unless otherwise specified in a commissioning brief. Examples include examining whether regeneration programmes improve public health and reduce health inequalities; evaluating employer schemes to encourage walking or cycling to work; and assessing interventions that encourage healthy eating among school children.

Applicants wishing to evaluate public health interventions that sit both inside and outside of the NHS, or on the boundary, are encouraged to discuss their proposals with PHR Programme staff at an early stage.

The PHR Programme will support:

applications focused on intervention development where an intervention already exists and for which there is an evidence base, but it requires adaptation to situations such as a new context (e.g. a change in setting or target behaviour or client group) or amalgamation of separate, defined interventions so that they complement each other.

Where a compelling case is made, we will also fund work to establish feasibility and to pilot a definitive intervention. However, any work related to optimising an existing intervention prior to evaluation, where research has shown that the intervention performs sub-optimally and there are specific remediable aspects of the intervention such as the delivery method or the timing of elements, must not exceed 6-months in duration.

The PHR Programme will not support:

The creation of new interventions*, or processes, where active components of existing interventions are recombined to create a new intervention whether or not driven by a logic model or underlying theory.
The design and development of new websites, apps, text messages or other software designed as all or part of creating a new intervention. Websites or other supporting material with the aim of publicising the study or supporting study recruitment, for example, which is only required to carry out the research study, would be supported within the general rules of the programme as would material associated with the optimisation of an existing intervention prior to evaluation.

*The creation of new interventions would likely fall under the remit of the MRC Public Health Intervention Development (PHIND) Programme.

See the success rates for PHR proposals.

In this section you can read more on the people involved with the assessment of applications for the PHR Programme, read the minutes of previous funding decisions and find out more about becoming a reviewer or a Committee member.

The Public Health Research (PHR) Programme has two committees of experts who play an important role in assessing our stage 1 and stage 2 proposals and identifying topics for research.

The PHR Prioritisation Committee (view list of members) advises on the identification and prioritisation of research topics and stage 1 proposals based on public health importance. Those successful applicants are assessed by the PHR Funding Committee (view list of members) based on their scientific quality, feasibility, and value for money.

Members of NIHR Committees are required to declare any interests which conflict, or may be considered to conflict, with NIHR business, or may be perceived as influencing decisions made in the course of their work within NIHR. All members are asked to complete the Register of Interest form (annually), which is intended to capture long term predictable interests that could be perceived to lead to conflicts of interest. These and other interests are judged on a case by case basis at individual meetings.

Our Director

Professor Martin White


Our Chair

Professor Peymane Adab

 

Reviewers

Our community of reviewers play a vital part in maintaining and improving the quality of the PHR Programme projects and outputs. They are sought from a variety of fields, including from those who work in and use NHS services.

To demonstrate our gratitude to our reviewers and acknowledge the important work they do for the programme the names of past year’s reviewers are listed on our website. View list of reviewers.

We offer a wide variety of assistance during all stages of the research process. If in doubt, please get in touch.

For help with applying for PHR funding:

Tel: 023 8059 9697
Email: phr@nihr.ac.uk

Fast-track scheme

Most research supported by the PHR Programme will follow the normal two-stage process of assessment before being funded. However, it may sometimes be necessary to accelerate the handling of a topic and in such circumstances researchers may be eligible to apply through the fast-track scheme.

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.  However, please bear in mind that proposals accepted onto the fast-track scheme will compete on equal terms with other stage 2 proposals which have had the benefit of feedback by the Research Funding Committee at stage 1.

The most obvious indication for fast-tracking is to take advantage of a time-limited opportunity to conduct research.  This may be when research is needed around a natural experiment where data collection needs to start within a timescale which can’t be accommodated by the programme’s normal processes.

If you would like your proposal to be considered for the fast-track scheme, please contact phr@nihr.ac.uk . You will be asked 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.

The information you provide will then be considered and you will be informed whether your proposal is eligible for fast-tracking. You will then be provided with more information about submitting your stage 2 application and the timescales for doing this.

Large-scale studies

The PHR Programme is also keen to see applications for large-scale evaluation studies with the potential for national reach. This means primary research projects which:

  • address an issue of major strategic public health importance, with the cost in line with the significance of the problem to be investigated
  • are likely to lead to changes in practice that will have a significant impact on a large number of the population across the UK
  • aim to fill a clear 'evidence gap', and likely to generate new knowledge
  • have the potential for findings that are generalisable and transferable
  • bring together a team with strong expertise and track record across the full range of relevant disciplines

If you are planning a project of this type you may wish to refer to the MRC Complex Interventions Framework.

Latest funding opportunities for Public Health Research

20/06 Reducing health inequalities in coastal towns and communities

The Public Health Research Programme (PHR) accepting stage 1 applications to their commissioned workstream for this topic.

20/07 Mobile data for public health

The Public Health Research Programme (PHR) accepting stage 1 applications to their commissioned workstream for this topic.

19/164 PHR Injuries, accidents and urgent and emergency care themed call

The Public Health Research Programme (PHR) is accepting stage 1 applications for this Themed Call.

19/156 PHR oral and dental health

We are particularly interested in research of interventions that operate at a population level and of relevance to local government. It is not calling for research of individual-level interventions.

19/133 Continuing priority research topics of interest to the PHR Programme

The Public Health Research Programme are accepting stage 1 applications to their commissioned workstream for this topic


Latest news about Public Health Research

News: Sugar tax had no lasting negative impacts on the UK soft drinks industry

Sugar tax
Read more

News: ‘Fake news’ during an infectious disease epidemic could make the outbreak worse

fake news keyboard picture
Read more

News: Sugar levels in UK soft drinks lowered following government levy

Sugar tax
Read more

Latest blogs about Public Health Research

Blog: Tackling the harms of New Psychoactive Substances - We need to look at the bigger picture

New research explores the use of New Psychoactive Substances by young people
Read more

Blog: Top NIHR blog picks from 2019 - Part Two

Read more

Blog: Top NIHR blog picks from 2019 - Part One

Read more

Latest documents for Public Health Research

Guidance for NIHR Trainee Committee Membership applicants

Guidance for NIHR trainee committee membership applicants

20/06 Reducing health inequalities in coastal towns and communities

Reducing health inequalities in coastal towns and communities commissioning brief.

20/07 Mobile data for public health

Mobile Data for Public Health commissioning brief.

PHR Funding Committee - Public Minutes October 2019

PHR FC public minutes October 2019

Cross-programme oral and dental health commissioning brief

The NIHR is interested in receiving research proposals evaluating public health measures, healthcare interventions and health and social care services to promote good oral and dental health.