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Supporting and enabling health research in a local authority (SERLA): an exploratory study

Supporting and enabling health research in a local authority (SERLA): an exploratory study
Supporting and enabling health research in a local authority (SERLA): an exploratory study

Background: the use of research evidence to underpin public health practice and policy decisions in local government is strongly promoted but its implementation has not been straightforward. This study aimed to explore the factors, relationships and processes that contribute towards accessing, using, and generating research evidence that is relevant to local authority public health and social care and shapes its practice. 

Methods: semi-structured individual interviews with elected councillors, officers directly involved with public health and social care and with community members from one urban unitary authority in South England were conducted. Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim and thematically analysed. 

Results: fourteen participants took part in the semi-structured interviews. Local knowledge and evidence are prioritised, and anecdotal evidence is valued. The Director of Public Health was the principal source of information and support. Academics were rarely mentioned as information sources, and their involvement was ad hoc. The use of research evidence varied between individuals and departments, with wider engagement among public health specialists. Key barriers to the use of research evidence included access (not reported among public health professionals), research timeliness, local applicability, competence in finding and interpreting evidence and the role of research evidence within a political context. Public health and adult social care teams are not currently research active or research ready. Major barriers exist due to financial constraints and the socio-political context of local authorities. COVID-19 disrupted siloed ways of working, strengthening and opening potential collaborations within the local authority. This changed perspectives about the value of research but is likely time-limited unless underpinned by sustainable funding. 

Conclusion: creating strategic level roles within local government to work with the Director of Public Health to champion the research agenda and embedding researchers within and across teams would build capacity for local authorities to sustainably co-create, undertake, and use evidence to better inform future actions.

Local authority, Public health, Research
1471-2458
McGee, Ciara E.
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Barlow-Pay, Megan
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Vassilev, Ivaylo
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Baird, Janis
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Fenge, Lee Ann
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Chase, Debbie
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Parkes, Julie
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McGee, Ciara E.
cf3b7bd6-e0c8-487c-a578-cd717ffc7fad
Barlow-Pay, Megan
6d34be3a-ba92-4e43-bd6a-176fa05247d7
Vassilev, Ivaylo
d76a5531-4ddc-4eb2-909b-a2a1068f05f3
Baird, Janis
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Fenge, Lee Ann
14cdbd93-9b09-42f0-b0f2-a7acf58b7eb2
Chase, Debbie
723c480c-334e-4d5b-9157-47e23fc8bda5
Parkes, Julie
a3513cd3-3837-4304-8c94-51c8e15a1f5d

McGee, Ciara E., Barlow-Pay, Megan, Vassilev, Ivaylo, Baird, Janis, Fenge, Lee Ann, Chase, Debbie and Parkes, Julie (2022) Supporting and enabling health research in a local authority (SERLA): an exploratory study. BMC Public Health, 22 (1), [1316]. (doi:10.1186/s12889-022-13396-2).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Background: the use of research evidence to underpin public health practice and policy decisions in local government is strongly promoted but its implementation has not been straightforward. This study aimed to explore the factors, relationships and processes that contribute towards accessing, using, and generating research evidence that is relevant to local authority public health and social care and shapes its practice. 

Methods: semi-structured individual interviews with elected councillors, officers directly involved with public health and social care and with community members from one urban unitary authority in South England were conducted. Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim and thematically analysed. 

Results: fourteen participants took part in the semi-structured interviews. Local knowledge and evidence are prioritised, and anecdotal evidence is valued. The Director of Public Health was the principal source of information and support. Academics were rarely mentioned as information sources, and their involvement was ad hoc. The use of research evidence varied between individuals and departments, with wider engagement among public health specialists. Key barriers to the use of research evidence included access (not reported among public health professionals), research timeliness, local applicability, competence in finding and interpreting evidence and the role of research evidence within a political context. Public health and adult social care teams are not currently research active or research ready. Major barriers exist due to financial constraints and the socio-political context of local authorities. COVID-19 disrupted siloed ways of working, strengthening and opening potential collaborations within the local authority. This changed perspectives about the value of research but is likely time-limited unless underpinned by sustainable funding. 

Conclusion: creating strategic level roles within local government to work with the Director of Public Health to champion the research agenda and embedding researchers within and across teams would build capacity for local authorities to sustainably co-create, undertake, and use evidence to better inform future actions.

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s12889-022-13396-2 - Version of Record
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Published date: 9 July 2022
Additional Information: Funding Information: This study was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Public Health Research Programme (NIHR131747). The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.
Keywords: Local authority, Public health, Research

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 469169
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/469169
ISSN: 1471-2458
PURE UUID: 605de11b-f6b4-4041-92a4-b9dbfc3deca5
ORCID for Ivaylo Vassilev: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-2206-8247
ORCID for Janis Baird: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-4039-4361

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 08 Sep 2022 17:06
Last modified: 15 Nov 2022 02:43

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Contributors

Author: Ciara E. McGee
Author: Megan Barlow-Pay
Author: Ivaylo Vassilev ORCID iD
Author: Janis Baird ORCID iD
Author: Lee Ann Fenge
Author: Debbie Chase
Author: Julie Parkes

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