From February 2017, information about the work of the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow is available and updated on the University of Glasgow website.

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Complexity in Health Improvement

The Complexity in Health Improvement programme seeks to develop and apply research methods that are specifically designed for understanding and measuring the multiplicity of interdependent factors that shape the impact of interventions and policies designed to improve public health and/or reduce health inequalities. Work within the programme will revolve around three overlapping themes, focusing on (1) the development and evaluation of complex interventions; (2) the transferability of interventions across contexts; and (3) complex systems science.

Public health interventions whose mechanisms rely solely on human agency often fail to bring about sustained improvement in public health, and may increase social inequalities in health. Strategies are more likely to be effective if complex and underpinned by explicit theoretical frameworks and perspectives. These include the socio-ecological model, complex systems theory; realist evaluation which highlights the need to not just identify ‘what works?’ but ‘what works, for whom, under what circumstances and why?’; and an implementation science/knowledge exchange perspective that identifies the need to include, at all stages of the development and evaluation process, 1) engagement with policy, practice and public partners; and 2) a focus on whether interventions will Reach those most in need, are Efficacious, and can be Adopted, Implemented and Maintained in the real world effectively and at reasonable cost (REAIM).

The programme aims to lead international efforts in the application of novel methods (1) to identify the most effective means to improve population health and reduce inequalities, and (2) understand how effectiveness might vary across contexts. Our objectives are to:

  1. Develop and apply novel methods to support the rigorous development and evaluation of complex public health improvement interventions.
  2. Formulate general principles about the transferability of interventions.
  3. Develop and apply complex systems science methods to the modelling of health inequalities and social network influences on health.
  4. Build capacity in the development and evaluation of complex public health improvement interventions and in complex systems science methods.

This new programme will take a concerted and coherent approach to the challenge of improving the volume and quality of evidence on the effectiveness of public health improvement interventions. Notably by developing methodology and supporting the conduct of evaluations of complex, multilevel interventions and policies.

The programme scientists will work with the Unit’s Health and Wellbeing Research Support Unit and Knowledge team to create a world class, collaborative environment to support the successful implementation of translational research in public health improvement, to be taken forward in collaborative projects with the Unit’s other programmes and external collaborators. Furthermore, we aim to create capacity through our critical mass and researcher development, and to both lead and support studies that: identify promising intervention mechanisms; apply them; and evaluate their effectiveness and generalizability between contexts.

For more information, please contact Laurence Moore.