£16m funding for research into evidence-informed policy making

NIHR awards new round of funding to Policy Research Units at LSHTM to support evidence-informed policy making in health and social care
"The new funding will allow us to further establish PIRU as a 'go-to' centre of excellence for policy evaluation." Professor Ellen Nolte, Director of new PIRU

The Policy Innovation and Evaluation Research Unit (PIRU) and the Public Health Policy Research Unit (PH-PRU) at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) have been awarded £10.5 million and £5.5 million respectively from the National Institute for Health and Social Care Research (NIHR) over the next five years. Multi-disciplinary teams of researchers at LSHTM and collaborating institutions will undertake research focused on current and emerging national policy priorities in England.

Since January 2011, PIRU has brought together researchers from leading research institutions to develop rigorous evidence to support innovations in health and social care policy in England. PIRU researchers aim to strengthen policy development by conducting speedy, thorough, early-stage evaluations of national initiatives across health services, social care and public health policy. Research carried out by PIRU has included work to inform policy decisions on the NHS COVID-19 contact tracing app; an evaluation of the Heatwave Plan for England; and an evaluation of novel mental health support teams to improve the social and emotional wellbeing of children and young people.

Ellen Nolte, Professor of Health Services and Systems Research, Director of the renewed PIRU, said: “This award confirms the quality of, and confidence in, the work PIRU has been delivering over the past decade. Our work has been recognised as clearly adding value to policy making. The new funding will allow us to further establish PIRU as a ‘go-to’ centre of excellence for policy evaluation. Because we work so widely across health and social care, we will be able to generate evidence and insights that will help inform much-needed cross-sectoral policy development.”

Nicholas Mays, Professor of Health Policy and current Director of PIRU, said: “For over a decade, we have been able to produce strongly policy-relevant, high quality, timely, planned and responsive work, mainly on policy innovations and pilots across an wide range of policy areas. I am very pleased that the renewed Unit will have more capacity to provide answers to pressing questions related to ways of improving population health beyond the boundaries of the NHS and long-term care system.”

The PH-PRU conducts public health research focused on the wider social and economic determinants of health. The Unit has centred its research on four broad themes: understanding what determines people’s physical and mental health, and influences health behaviour; evaluating the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of public health interventions; generating evidence to inform strategies to reduce inequalities in health; and developing new theory and research methods, and new ways to apply them to public health challenges.

Mark Petticrew, Professor of Public Health Evaluation and Director of PH-PRU, said: “The Public Health PRU, and the Public Health Research Consortium from which it evolved has been generating equity-relevant public health research to support policy for nearly 20 years. The core challenges have changed over time, but many remain, in particular the need to tackle inequalities, and to address unhealthy environments which undermine public health. Our research programme has evolved over time too, and our current research spans a wide range of current public health priorities, including research on the commercial determinants of health, and climate change, as well as evaluations of complex public health interventions, including policies. PH-PRU and its collaborators are looking forward to the next five years.”

In total NIHR has awarded more than £100 million in funding for 20 Policy Research Units across England from January 2024. The NIHR commissions policy research to deliver relevant, timely and accessible evidence to inform national policy decisions across the health, care and public health systems. 

Read more about the announcement on the NIHR website.


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