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The return of public health to local government in England: changing the parameters of the public health prioritization debate?

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Sara McCafferty


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Objectives: To explore the influence of values and context in public health priority-setting in local government in England.Study design: Qualitative interview study.Methods: Decision-makers' views were identified through semi-structured interviews and prioritization tools relevant for public health were reviewed. Interviews (29) were carried out with Health and Wellbeing Board members and other key stakeholders across three local authorities in England, following an introductory workshop.Results: There were four main influences on priorities for public health investment in our case study sites: an organizational context where health was less likely to be associated with health care and where accountability was to a local electorate; a commissioning and priority-setting context (plan, do, study, act) located within broader local authority priority-setting processes; different views of what counts as evidence and, in particular, the role of local knowledge; and debates over what constitutes a public health intervention, triggered by the transfer of a public health budget from the NHS to local authorities in England.Conclusions: The relocation of public health into local authorities exposes questions over prioritizing public health investment, including the balance across lifestyle interventions and broader action on social determinants of health and the extent to which the public health evidence base influences local democratic decision-making. Action on wider social determinants reinforces not only the art and science but also the values and politics of public health. (C) 2015 The Royal Society for Public Health. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Marks L, Hunter DJ, Scalabrini S, Gray J, McCafferty S, Payne N, Peckham S, Salway S, Thokala P

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Public Health

Year: 2015

Volume: 129

Issue: 9

Pages: 1194-1203

Print publication date: 01/09/2015

Online publication date: 19/08/2015

Acceptance date: 12/07/2015

ISSN (print): 0033-3506

ISSN (electronic): 1476-5616

Publisher: W.B. Saunders Co. Ltd.


DOI: 10.1016/j.puhe.2015.07.028


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Funder referenceFunder name
SPHR-FUS-PH1-SGSNational Institute for Health Research (NIHR), School for Public Health Research (SPHR)