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NIHR launches UK-wide programme to develop future population health research leaders

Published: 07 October 2021

The NIHR has today launched the NIHR Population Health Career Scientist Award (PHCSA), a UK-wide initiative to enable senior researchers to make the next step to Reader/Professor level in their host institutions.

The PHCSA forms part of a series of initiatives and investments by NIHR to enable local government to become more research active. This new award will help answer the most important research questions facing decision-makers at local and national levels to improve health and reduce inequalities.

Work to understand the research and evidence challenges facing local authorities started before the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2018/19, Professor Chris Whitty visited local authorities within England to hear about the public health challenges local authorities face and how research can help to address them.

Through this scheme, the NIHR is keen to receive innovative and ambitious applications (e.g. those that make the best use of data linkage and modelling techniques) across a broad range of areas of population health. Developing an understanding of how to tackle health inequalities and wider disadvantages is both a research and a policy imperative for this scheme.

In recognition of the challenges faced by local authorities around preventable risk factors and wider determinants of health, what is particularly exciting about this new NIHR initiative is that it constitutes dedicated additional investment aimed at building capacity in areas relevant to population health and the needs of local government.

Professor Lucy Chappell, Chief Executive of NIHR said:

“It is great to see the PHCSA initiative launched. Building senior public health research expertise in a wide range of academic communities will push forward the NIHR’s ambition to see research in the wider determinants of health. This research evidence will help the NIHR in its role in improving the health of the nation and reducing health inequalities.”

Professor Brian Ferguson, Director of the Public Health Research Programme, said:

“The current pandemic has demonstrated the relevance of so many disciplines in helping us to understand both the direct and indirect impacts of infectious disease. As we face the major population health challenges of climate change, air quality and obesity - to name a few – we need innovative and inspirational population health research leaders who will bring a range of perspectives and expertise to tackle these challenges and deliver a practical impact on health related outcomes.”

Professor Waljit Dhillo, Dean of NIHR Academy, said:

“For this scheme to work well, it is crucial that we also attract researchers from outside the disciplines more usually associated with public health research to include the wide range of specialties which undertake research in areas which impact the determinants of health such as environmental science, mathematics, architecture, engineering, geography. We welcome innovative applications from all quarters.”

This new fellowship award is funded through the NIHR Public Health Research (PHR) Programme and is being delivered jointly by the PHR Programme and the NIHR Academy. It aligns with other relevant NIHR initiatives, in particular the development of Health Determinants Research Collaborations (HDRCs) and the NIHR Academy local authority academic fellowship scheme, and is part of the wider Programme of Fellowships that includes the NIHR Advanced Fellowship scheme.

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