A new report points to a bright future for Welsh and UK research driving better public health thanks to Wales’ Centre for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement (DECIPHer) and five other sites across the UK.
A strategic investment by Health and Care Research Wales, DECIPHer is part of a £37 million UK-wide network of centres of excellence co-funded with England's Medical Research Council in 2008. The new report released by the UK Clinical Research Collaboration (UKCRC) shows that this network has exceeded what was thought possible in growing research and continuing expertise to build the evidence driving better public health policy and practice.
A Cardiff-led collaboration with Swansea and Bristol Universities with a particular focus on the health of children and young people, DECIPHer is a leading centre of innovative multidisciplinary public health research. Combining effective engagement with public health professionals and policy makers with public involvement in research, the centre is tackling the health impacts of tobacco, alcohol and drugs, obesity, physical activity and diet, and enabling good mental health and wellbeing.
Together, the UKCRC centres have had far-reaching impact nationally, with evidence from centre research programmes influencing the government sugar tax, encouraging healthy transport policies, providing guidance on physical activity, promoting health in schools and playing a leading role in government policy on tobacco smoking and vaping.
The centres have also helped change the way we think about how to align research with the needs of policymakers and practitioners. By pioneering innovative new ways of responding to public health needs and providing rapid response evaluations for policy and practice partners, their work is helping researchers and practitioners to address public health at a local level, faster.
Centre collaborations and academic-policy partnerships have changed the public health landscape, paving the way for ambitious new prevention initiatives, like the UK Prevention Research Partnership.
In doing all this, the network of centres have attracted significant additional funding to increase the volume and quality of public health research UK-wide and fostered a new generation of public health researchers. In nurturing early career researchers’ talent and giving them opportunities to work across academia, policy and practice, the centres have given them a springboard to forge productive, successful careers, securing fellowships and lectureships, winning awards and promotion.
Professor Chris Whitty, Chair of the UKCRC Board, said: “This report shows how this initiative has built research capacity in public health in the UK. Considered untried and risky in 2006, the hard work and collaborative spirit of many researchers, managers and students, has strengthened evidence-based public health policy and practice.
“Without these sorts of achievements, it is hard to see how further ambitious investment like the UK Prevention Research Partnership would have been feasible. I am very grateful to all the research directors that drove this forward, and they should be justly proud of their contribution to the field."