Exploring decision-making processes and knowledge requirements in public health

The context in which public health strategy is developed and services are commissioned has shifted dramatically since 2013. Decisions previously made within the NHS are now being taken by public health teams within Local Authorities, arguably bringing a whole new political dimension to public health decision-making. The shifting culture and context of decision-making means that as generators and synthesisers of evidence, we are interested in supporting public health decision-makers to continue to make informed and judicious evidence-based choices. This means that not only do we need to understand the new culture and practices of evidence use, but we also need to critically examine whether our own research outputs are fit for purpose in supporting decision-making in this new climate.

To do this we are undertaking three planned activities. In stage 1, we are undertaking a scoping review of recent literature to understand evidence-use practice and drivers, which will provide a framework for the project and ensure we build upon, rather than replicate, previous initiatives. In stage 2, we will ‘take the temperature’ of evidence use culture, behaviour, knowledge, and attitudes across public health teams in England through the development and fielding of a survey of public health decision-makers. Stage 3 involves using the findings from previous stages to design a qualitative study. In this qualitative stage we are observing and understanding the points in the decision-making process where research evidence is currently under-utilised but could be tailored to better meet the needs of public health decision-makers.
Successful completion of this work will improve our understanding of the evidence needs of public health decision-makers, which ultimately could lead to better public health outcomes.

Principal investigator: Professor James Thomas, UCL Institute of Education

Other project team members: Dr Dylan Kneale, UCL Institute of Education; Dr Antonio Rojas-García, UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health

Start date: April 2015

Partners and collaborators involved: UCL