The first phase was a major NIHR-funded study entitled “People in Public
Health”, which focussed on lay people in public health roles. This work incorporated a
systematic scoping review, deliberative methods, qualitative research and multiple case study
assessments. Outputs from this broad NIHR study informed and significantly contributed to the
understanding of the range of health-improvement roles that members of the public could
successfully take on and how problematic issues like remuneration could be managed.
The second phase broadened the portfolio of research and widened the scope to all
community engagement approaches used to improve health and wellbeing. Our co-produced
mode of working led to the establishment of an emergent issue ‘think tank’ that linked policy
makers, national organisations, practitioners, communities and academics. This network identified key research questions to be addressed to improve the evidence base relating to community engagement.
Subsequently, Professor South was seconded to Public Health England and led a joint knowledge translation project on community engagement since 2014 that informed the direction of the underpinning research. The underpinning research consisted of mixed methods approaches to identify current policy and practice in the UK for encouraging community engagement and a systematic review to identify barriers and facilitators for increasing community engagement. This research met the challenges of a fragmented evidence base that had hindered advancement in this area by:
- Developing a conceptual framework linking theory with practice, using the notion of community-centred approaches
- Identifying and mapping international and national evidence on community-based interventions
This work resulted in a taxonomy, ‘the family of community-centred approaches’ and was a significant contribution in developing community-engagement strategies within public health sectors. The two extensive NICE-commissioned reports presented in the underpinning research were part of a collaboration between LBU and University of East London (UEL). The key findings of the underpinning research have been summarised and condensed into the PHE/NHSE report “A guide to community-centred approaches for health and wellbeing”, which has acted as the conduit to stakeholders in translation of the underpinning research into driving changes in public health policy and practice.