Developing a Public Health Research System to Support Local Government in Kent

  • Funded by Department of Health and Social Care / National Institute for Health and Care Research (DHSC-NIHR)
  • Total publications:0 publications

Grant number: NIHR131931

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Key facts

  • Disease

  • Start & end year

  • Known Financial Commitments (USD)

  • Funder

    Department of Health and Social Care / National Institute for Health and Care Research (DHSC-NIHR)
  • Principle Investigator

  • Research Location

    United Kingdom, Europe
  • Lead Research Institution

    University of Kent
  • Research Category

    Health Systems Research

  • Research Subcategory

    Health leadership and governance

  • Special Interest Tags


  • Study Subject


  • Clinical Trial Details


  • Broad Policy Alignment


  • Age Group

    Adults (18 and older)

  • Vulnerable Population


  • Occupations of Interest



This project will build the foundations of a system across the county of Kent that promotes knowledge mobilisation and research activity particularly in relation to the wider determinants of health. This may promote better decision-making and use of public funds. This work is timely, as during the recovery phase from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is particularly important to inform the prioritisation agenda. We will study two councils, Kent County Council and Medway Council. Kent County Council serves 1.5 million people across a largely rural area with several large towns. It is an upper tier authority with 12 districts. Medway Council is a unitary authority serving about 280,000 people in the north of the county, made up of a large coastal conurbation and surrounding rural area. They are linked, in health terms, by a joint Health and Wellbeing Board, a single Sustainability and Transformation Partnership and a single clinical commissioning group and have access to the same NIHR infrastructure and university resources. We envisage that we will gain informative insights from including two closely linked but differently structured councils, and ultimately an efficient research system will cover both given the shared geographies and academic links. The evidence suggests that the process of policy decision-making in local government uses research evidence less than the NHS, giving greater emphasis to local context and political constraints. There may be less recognition that research evidence can support better, more rational decision-making and better value. Public health departments in both councils use research evidence and are involved in research, but it is likely that systems to facilitate research activity could be strengthened, especially across the full range of local government functions that have an impact on health (e.g. strategic planning, transport, economic development, housing, leisure, environmental health, green spaces). We plan to carry out a survey of local government officers across the county to understand the extent to which research is used or commissioned to inform decision-making, what perceptions and attitudes are to research, and what is knowledge of research and resources available. We will then carry out interviews with informants including officers and elected members, to gain an understanding of what needs to be in place to promote use of research evidence and greater involvement in research. We will then bring together council representatives, academics and other stakeholders (including members of the public) in a workshop to develop a logic model and plan for the structure and function of a research system and what is needed to implement it. We aspire for the findings to be used to develop a costed implementation plan for the Kent research system. The learning will be shared across the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration for Kent, Surrey and Sussex to encourage similar approaches in other parts of the region and nationally.