NEWS: 2nd SPHR Annual Scientific Meeting held in London

Second SPHR Annual Scientific Meeting held in London

[Posted on 17th October, 2013]

The second NIHR SPHR Annual Scientific Meeting was held in London on 8th October 2013 at the UCL Institute of Child Health. The meeting was held the day after an evening reception for researchers, who were addressed by the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies.

The Annual Scientific Meeting showcased the School’s research priorities and themes and set out the emerging School-wide programmes of research. There was input from a number of distinguished guest speakers as well as a keynote from Professor Gerard Hastings.

This summary provides a brief commentary on the day, noting some of the discussion points. A copy of the programme is available here.

SPHR’s Director, Professor Jon Nicholl of the University of Sheffield, welcome 135 SPHR researchers and external invited guests and noted the School’s progress so far. There are now 24 research projects underway within 3 programmes. 140 researchers are on board and several PhD students.

Professor John Ashton, President, UK Faculty of Public Health, explained the Faculty’s role, which covers training and authentication as well as influencing and advocacy, with 3300 members and Fellows. He emphasised the tension between national initiatives and local appropriateness; and discussed the requirements of those working in policy and practice for timely, ‘good enough’ information. He also proposed that SPHR might consider who else should be involved as the body of research develops; and how it might anticipate new and emerging public health changes such as gambling and pornography.

The Building the Evidence Base presentations followed and you can view these slides.

Martin Reeves, Chief Executive of Coventry City Council, set out his views on the opportunity to transform health and well-being presented by the move of public health back to local authorities. He suggested the challenge is to work beyond structures and budgets to tackle intractable problems together. He described budget pressures in Coventry, with 35% cuts planned, alongside major intractable health challenges, so that decision-makers need long term efficacy assured for measures they decide to spend on. He challenged SPHR to provide insight into multifactorial problems (such as obesity).

The Supporting Translation into Practice presentations followed and can be accessed here.

Simon Denegri, Chair of INVOLVE and NIHR’s Director of Public Participation and Engagement in Research then looked at how we might build ‘research-active’ communities as part of the process of supporting health and well-being. He described the enabling role of INVOLVE, which is deeply embedded within NIHR. He encouraged researchers to think about whether their research questions match with the concerns of the public; and to take action to find out.

After lunch, Professor John Frank, Director, Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Research and Policy (SCPHRP) explored evaluation, citing his experience in Scotland, often called the ‘sick man of Europe’ where exceptional health inequalities persist throughout the life course. He introduced his work on the EDI instrument for measuring child development and explained the barriers to implementation.

There followed a set of presentations on Evaluating Public Health Interventions.

The SPHR School-wide Programmes were then introduced: Alcohol, Ageing Well and Health Inequalities. Alcohol and Ageing Well presentation slides.

Professor Gerard Hastings, Professor of Social Marketing, University of Stirling, discussed marketing and corporate influences on public health, as outlined in his recent book, The Marketing Matrix. He examined the notion of consumer sovereignty, corporate fear of regulation, and their fiduciary duty to protect the interests of the shareholders. Professor Hastings called on delegates to explore their own roles and to consider how they might contribute to change.

Questions to Professor Hastings covered legal remedies and the role of law, the role of NGO’s and charities, and the public health tendency to focus on behaviour change which can allow inadvertent blame on individuals.

Jon Nicholl then closed the day with warm thanks to delegates, presenters and the organisers. Speaking about the event, Professor Nicholl said, “I’d like to thank everyone again for a terrific meeting with inspired presentations and so much research to present, we had difficulty fitting it all in!”