New regional collaboration to support Public Health Evaluation

A team from the Universities of Loughborough, Nottingham and Lincoln have been awarded £2.5 million by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to deliver evaluations of public health initiatives across the UK.

The Public Health Intervention Responsive Studies Team (PHIRST) scheme was launched in 2019, and funds academic teams to provide timely and accessible research to local authorities (LAs) that are keen to have their work evaluated.

Each PHIRST group acts as a ‘ready to go’ evaluation team and delivers a rolling programme of evaluations in response to LA requests.

This collaboration is the fifth PHIRST award to be made by the NIHR, and provides funding for 5 years from early 2022.

Each project will be run in collaboration with the relevant local authority, with co-designed plans and initiatives to build long term evaluative capacity in the LA itself. 

The project team combines expertise and experience across public health, working with local and national government, community research, impact, and a range of research methodologies. The team comprises:

  • Loughborough University: Professor Lauren Sherar (Professor of Physical Activity and Public Health) and Dr Jo Barnes (Senior Lecturer).
  • University of Nottingham: Dr Elizabeth Orton (Associate Professor and Consultant in Public Health) overall lead, in collaboration with Prof. Denise Kendrick (Professor of Primary Care Research), Prof. Pip Logan (Professor of Rehabilitation Research and Occupational Therapist), Prof. Jo Leonardi-Bee (Professor of Medical Statistics and Epidemiology), Dr Joanne Morling (Associate Professor and Consultant in Public Health) and Prof. Adam Gordon (Professor of the Care of Older People).
  • University of Lincoln: Professor Mark Gussy (Global Professor in Rural Health and Social Care) and Dr Julie Bayley (Director of Research Impact Development and the Lincoln Impact Literacy Institute, Health Psychologist).
  • Patient representative: Pamela Rees.

The group is well connected with regional Public Health and Local Authority leads, and throughout the work will connect with the wider PHIRST community to share practice. 

Professor Lauren Sherar said: “It is fantastic to have this collaboration in the East Midlands. By working in partnership, we can not only cement stronger links between our respective universities, but also draw together a far stronger regional footprint for public health excellence and local impact.”

More information on the PHIRST programme is available via the NIHR website, or by contacting