• The Health Foundation has commissioned a project to further the development and building of a new system for the generation and use of public health evidence. This will build on recent work by Dr Harry Rutter moving from a description of the problem to identifying and implementing practical responses in research funding and policy action.
  • Led by Dr Harry Rutter, Professor of Global Public Health, at the University of Bath. 
  • Due to complete April 2019.

The health of individuals and populations is determined by genetic, social, economic, environmental and commercial factors, such that outcomes can rarely be traced to a single, direct cause.  Overcoming public health challenges requires interventions that aim to shift systems and determinants of health, rather than just single factors or individual level behaviour. This project thus proposes the use of a complex systems framework in public health research and practice.

Over the next two years, in several, related strands of work Dr Rutter will:

  • Examine the reasons why a systems perspective is needed, the methodological approaches required and key actions for engaging policymakers and practitioners in such thinking.
  • Conduct a review of existing methods for research and an evaluation of public health interventions within the context of complex systems, to identify useful methodologies.
  • Synthesise relevant systems approaches to the conceptualisation and evaluation of public health interventions to propose a model evaluation framework, which will be applied in a series of case studies.
  • Work with research funders to influence the strategic distribution of their grants in favour of research into upstream and system level actions.
  • Engage and collaborate with policymakers and practitioners to encourage the adoption of complex systems approaches where appropriate.
  • Disseminate findings through publication in peer reviewed journals, non-technical reports and elsewhere.
  • Support the Health Foundation in establishing a network of public health practitioners to support and disseminate this work.

Contact information

For more information about this project, please contact Dr Harry Rutter, Professor of Global Public Health, at the University of Bath.

Further reading

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The need for a complex systems model of evidence for public health

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