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The Health Foundation is committed to bringing about better health and health care for people in the UK. Here’s how we plan to further this aim over the year ahead, with highlights from the work we have planned in each of our five strategic priority areas. 

1. Promote healthy lives for all

Our work to promote healthy lives for all aims to change the national conversation to focus on health and wellbeing as important assets for a flourishing society. To do this we are focusing on promoting national policies that support everyone’s opportunity to live a healthy life, and supporting local action to address variations in people’s opportunities for a healthy life.

  • Collaboration for Wellbeing and Health: In partnership with ten other organisations, we’re building a collaborative initiative that can take multi-level, cross-sector action to address the wider determinants of health in the UK. We aim to influence organisations in all parts of society to put people’s health and wellbeing at the heart of their decision-making, so every person in the UK has the opportunity to live a healthy life. In 2020 we’ll be scoping how the Collaboration will work in practice.
  • Economic development for health: We’ll be publishing a report on how local areas can use economic development strategies to improve health. We’re also launching our new programme, Shaping Economies for Healthier Lives, to better use local and regional economic development strategies to improve health and reduce health inequalities.
  • Health inequalities: We’ve been working with the Institute of Health Equity on their report Health Equity in England: The Marmot Review 10 Years On, which launches in late February. Drawing on this and the Foundation’s work to improve communication of the wider determinants of health, we will continue with a programme of work to build understanding of health inequalities and the factors that influence our health, and increase public support for policies for future action for a healthier UK. 
  • Young people’s future health: Following the launch of our inquiry report at the end of last year, we’ll establish five policy posts across influential organisations to develop recommendations for the action needed to ensure young people have the support, conditions and opportunities they need for a healthy future.
  • Exploring the wider determinants of health: We’re planning a new digital series analysing trends and inequalities in the wider factors that influence our health – from work and income to transport and our surroundings. Look out for the launch of a new data visualisation resource later this year.

2. Data analytics for better health

Analytics and data-driven technologies offer potential for better health and better care, but also come with risks. With the launch of our new Data Analytics for Better Health strategy, we are broadening the scope of our work in this area, to help create a future where everyone’s health and care benefits from analytics and data-driven technology. And we have lots planned for the coming year. 

  • Informing the national conversation about analytics and data-driven technologies: We’ll be supporting and conducting research into the opportunities and risks brought by these technologies and bringing organisations together to discuss how we can ensure these technologies have a positive impact on our health. Look out for blogs around key issues such as data access and trade deals, commentary and analysis on health inequalities and innovation, as well as opportunities to take part in events. 
  • Creating innovations in data analytics that tackle real-world problems: We already have a track record in using data analytics to understand key issues facing health and health care in the UK, and will be stepping up our work as a source of innovation. This will see us sharing our code for other analytical teams to use via GitHub, and producing products and tools that give policymakers the data and insights they need to improve health. We’ll continue to provide evidence about issues affecting the nation’s health. Watch out for a briefing on mental health and comorbidity, and a journal article on migrants’ use of NHS services.
  • Building initiatives to help the UK’s health to benefit from analytics and data-driven technologies: Our Improvement Analytics Unit is already using advanced analytics to examine the impact of significant changes to service delivery. In 2020, watch out for an evaluation of digital first primary care, and a synthesis of what we’ve learnt about integrated care. Meanwhile our new Networked Data Lab is rapidly developing, and will be providing national and local health system leaders with insights from data to take action in order to improve the UK's health and care. Over the next few years we’re planning on investing in some exciting new partnerships – watch this space.
  • Supporting better analytics in the health and care system: We’ll continue to champion better analytics across the health and care sector, supporting networks like the NHS-R Community, providing seed funding for innovative projects through our Advancing Applied Analytics programme, and working with HDR UK to fund projects to demonstrate how patient care can be improved through data-driven decisions. In 2020 you’ll hear more about our new analytical associates, we’ll be publishing reference guides for analysts, and much more. 

3. Supporting improvement

Improving health service delivery, and spreading what works, are a major part of the solution to the challenges facing the NHS. Our work in improvement aims to make a difference through developing people, giving grants to make improvements at the front line and building evidence about what works and why.

  • Insights from our research: We’ll publish new research on the challenges of using automation to improve health care, and share learning from evaluations, including of the Flow Coaching Academy and the NHS-Virginia Mason Institute partnership. We’ll also work with the ESRC to commission the Social Care Evidence Centre, which will lead the way for better implementation of research evidence in adult social care. 
  • Funding improvement at the front line: In 2020 we will be launching two new funding calls. Common Ambition will support patients and professionals to collaborate to improve care. This autumn, we aim to launch a programme to support better adoption of innovation and technology. We will continue our Continuity of Care in General Practice and Social Franchising programmes and complete the final rounds of Innovating for Improvement and Scaling Up Improvement. 
  • Building capability to improve care: We will continue to support the expansion of the Flow Coaching Academy, as well as scoping out a new programme with NHS Providers to support trusts to adopt quality improvement and working with NHS England and NHS Improvement on their proposed improvement framework. We will conclude the final rounds of our Improvement Science and GenerationQ fellowships. 
  • Develop the contribution of the health and care system to improving health: In partnership with NHS England and NHS Improvement, we will develop a UK-wide learning network to support the NHS to develop its role as an anchor institution. We also aim to launch an open call research programme on the role of health and social care in prevention this summer.
  • THIS Institute: 2020 will see the launch of Thiscovery, THIS Institute’s citizen science platform. The first projects will aim to improve understanding of how to rationalise the number of quality measures, and how to do better design of everyday equipment. THIS’s PhD and post-doctoral fellowships  will open again for recruitment. Look out too for the first chapters from the Great Big Book of Improving Quality and Safety in Healthcare.
  • Q Community: We will continue to grow the Q community in 2020, including through expanding from our existing presence in Northern Ireland into the Republic of Ireland. As well as a third round of Q Exchange and Q’s core offer for individual members and groups, we will be launching a new offer for organisations leading change across countries and regions in the UK. And watch out for the development of Q Lab Cymru: a new Q Lab in Wales. 

4. Health and care sustainability

To maintain and improve care while demand and costs are rising, the health and social care system needs adequate funding, a skilled workforce and increases in productivity. Our team carries out research and analysis to enhance policymakers’ understanding of supply and demand in both health and social care. 

We build the evidence and research base, and mobilise this to inform policy and strategic decision-making across the health and care sector, and to inform wider public debate. Our aim is to support better long-term decision making in health and social care through improved understanding of the policy implications of trends in and drivers of demand and supply. 

In 2020 we will launch the Health Foundation’s REAL Centre (Research and Economic Analysis for the Long term), marking a major progression of our analysis and research on sustainability. This new centre will aim to ensure that decisions about the funding, design and delivery of the health and social care system are informed by the best available analysis and evidence, and that debate about the future of the health and social care system is grounded in facts and evidence. The centre will launch formally in the summer, when we will share new analysis of the past 20 years of health care, and Sir Andrew Dilnot (chair of the REAL Centre’s oversight board) will give the inaugural lecture. In the autumn we will launch our call for applicants for ‘supply’ and ‘demand’ research centres to support the REAL Centre’s work. 

  • A programme of research into health care demand: In 2020 our in-house work to describe and explain the trends and patterns of health service activity over the past 20 years will continue under the umbrella of the REAL Centre. We will also look at the factors influencing the future demand for healthcare, including changes in morbidity, mortality and new treatments. We will produce projections of health service activity using a model that will combine in-house modelling and analysis with input from external partners. 
  • A programme of research into health care supply: We will undertake a similar programme of research and analysis around health care supply. We will continue to draw and build on findings from our Efficiency Research programme and Behavioural Insights Research programme as projects in each round start to produce results. We will build on our existing portfolio of research in workforce and capital to undertake further analysis and develop innovative models to project forward future supply need, starting with nursing and moving to other areas. 
  • Building the evidence on social care demand and supply: Compared with health care, the evidence and analysis base for social care demand and supply is thin. Our immediate aim is to take stock of the existing evidence base and to identify key research priorities that will enable us to produce detailed projections over the longer term. The final aim is to use the consolidated outputs from the research and analysis programmes above, to support better long-term decision making in health and social care.

5. Improving national health and care policy

Our policy team’s work focuses on supporting more evidence-informed health and social care, contributing to better health for people in the UK. We do this by analysing, understanding, and informing national policies on health and care, with a particular focus on the overall direction of the health system and how it is performing.

  • Work on national reform approaches: In 2020 we will look at the evidence related to competition and collaboration in the health system and will continue to focus on understanding how national policies impact on how care is delivered. We also have work planned around the politics of health reform – for example, the role of health minsters – including interviews and talks with expert speakers on this topic. 
  • Analysis of national policy priorities: We will track and analyse current policy priorities of the health and care system, how these are being implemented, and their impact (or likely impact) in different contexts. A briefing in early 2020 will summarise findings from the first phase of our evaluation of the impact of health and social care devolution in Greater Manchester. Also look out for analysis of the NHS’s new Sustainability and Transformation Partnership plans in relation to investment in disease prevention and reducing health inequalities.
  • Monitoring health system performance: We will continue to analyse the overall performance of the health and care system in England and how it changes over time, using routine data to track health and care quality. As part of this work we fund QualityWatch, a joint programme with the Nuffield Trust. 
  • International comparisons: We will increase our focus on understanding how the health and care system in England compares to other countries. In particular we’re collaborating with the Commonwealth Fund on two international surveys of health system performance. We also plan to produce analysis comparing health and care policies and performance between England and Scotland.
  • Shaping health futures: We will further develop our work to make sense of the major trends facing health and care in the future – such as changes in the environment or data-driven technology – and the implications for policy today. This will include holding several public events throughout the year, including an examination of social media and young people’s mental health in April 2020.

Find out more

You can also read more about specific opportunities to apply for our grant and fellowship programmes during 2020.

Stay up to date and use our resources

For all the latest news and developments from the Health Foundation, including alerts about the latest funding and fellowship opportunities, you can:

This content originally featured in our email newsletter, which explores perspectives and expert opinion on a different health or health care topic each month.

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