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People in Public Health


People in Public Health: A study of approaches to develop and support lay people in public health roles 

This project (2007-2010) was undertaken to improve our understanding of approaches to support lay people (members of the public) in public health roles. The study was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Service Delivery and Organisation (SDO) Programme. We wanted to find out about the different ways people are involved in public health activities and what health services can do to recruit, develop and support them. We also wanted to find out the views of community members with experience of public health services delivered or led by members of the public.

In Phase 1 of the study, we carried out a Literature Review on the range of roles and types of approaches in use. We explored some of the issues further in Expert Hearings. Phase 1 ended with site visits to different types of projects in England.

Phase 2 involved a small number of Case Studies of projects involving members of the public. We interviewed professionals, community members active in the projects and service users.

The experience and skills of members of the public are a valuable resource for health improvement. The results of this flagship study have been widely disseminated in policy and practice, as well as through academic publications.

The People in Public Health study was funded by the National Institute for Health Research Service Delivery and Organisation Programme (project number 08/1716/206).The views and opinions expressed therein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Health.

Project publications

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  • South, J., White, J. Gamsu, M. (2013) People-Centred Public Health. Bristol: The Policy Press.
  • South, J., Cattan, M. (2014) Developing evidence for public health policy and practice: the implementation of a knowledge translation approach in a staged, multi-methods study in England, 2007-2009. Evidence & Policy, 10(3): 379-396.
  • South, J., Purcell, M., Branney, P., Gamsu, M., White, J. (2014) Rewarding altruism: addressing the issue of payments for volunteers in public health initiatives. Social Science and Medicine, 104: 80-7.
  • South, J. White, J., Branney, P., Kinsella, K. (2013) Public health skills for a lay workforce: findings on skills and attributes from a qualitative study of lay health worker roles, Public Health, 127: 419-426.  
  • South, J. Meah, A., Bagnall, A-M., Jones, R. (2013) Dimensions of lay health worker programmes: results of a scoping study and production of a descriptive framework. Global Health Promotion, 20 (1): 5-15.
  • South, J., Kinsella, K., Meah, A. (2012) Lay perspectives on lay health worker roles, boundaries and participation within three UK community-based health promotion projects. Health Education Research, 27(4): 656–670.
  • South, J., Meah, A., Branney, P. (2012) “Think differently and be prepared to demonstrate trust”: findings from public hearings, England, on supporting lay people in public health roles. Health
  • South, J., Branney, P., Kinsella, K. (2011) Citizens bridging the gap? Interpretations of volunteering roles in two public health projects. Voluntary Sector Review, 2(3):297-315.
  • South, J., Sahota, P. (2010) Harnessing people power in health promotion. Primary Health Care, 20, (8): 16-21.
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