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Developing a tool kit for key stakeholders in Public Health to enhance health improvement.

Project Description

Public health (PH) is a population-based approach that recognizes the contributions of individuals, communities, voluntary groups and business to health (Wright J, 2016). It has three domains: health protection; health services delivery and quality; and health improvement (Griffiths S, 2005). Health protection focuses on prevention; health services delivery and quality focusses on producing evidence for improvement. Health improvement, however, aims at reducing inequalities by encouraging the adoption of healthier lifestyles through strategies that focus on underlying issues, such as poverty, lack of educational opportunities, lack of housing, etc. This requires multi-agency responses to tackle complex social problems, by bringing together health and social care services including contributions from several non-health sectors, such as education and housing (Davies S, 2014; Scottish Government 2015).

Literature highlights lack of information on wider stakeholders’ perceptions of how multiagency responses work in practice, especially from non-health sector workers and front-line staff in health and social care partnerships (Health Inequalities, 2014). Despite this recognition, no efforts had been made to bring all the key stakeholders together to focus on their individual and collective roles, responsibilities and working practices to better understand and respond to facilitators and barriers to achieving successful health outcomes and reduced inequalities.
Recent work explored
Aberdeen City health workers’ (GPs, nurses, etc.) and non-health workers’ (Education, City Council, Housing) perceptions on their roles and learning (Handal and Thompson, MSc Theses, 2018).

Major themes that emerged were: the ‘need for working in partnerships’; and ‘lack of awareness of services and organizations.’ Also highlighted was that working in partnership with wider PH work force was crucial for bringing about health behaviour change among service users and thus Health Improvement. However, the challenges with partnership working were identified as: lack of awareness of available services and organizations; barriers of confidentiality in information sharing and lack of trust and recognition. Most non-health workers acknowledged the importance of training, especially in sensitive health issues such as mental health. Identifying resources for non-health workers to improve knowledge and skills in health and providing opportunities for conversations between health and non-health personnel to build relationships is crucial for collaborative working in Health Improvement. These findings were shared with Aberdeen City Council partners to inform their quality improvement work in the interim.

The aim of this PhD will be to develop a toolkit for key stakeholders in Public Health for strengthening partnership to enhance Health Improvement. An initial explanatory mixed methods study, beginning with a questionnaire survey of a larger sample of health and non-health workers in Public health across Grampian, will be followed with a series of quarterly stakeholder workshops to explore, in-depth, the barriers and facilitators of partnership working and obtain suggestions for the most useful platform to facilitate networking and signposting for the staff from key stakeholder groups.

The results will inform the next stage of developing an appropriate toolkit. Using Participatory Action Research, a training package/or an interactive platform will be developed and piloted with a small group of heath and non-health stakeholders in Aberdeen and evaluated using rapid-cycle evaluation (Health Foundation, 2015). We will work with local partners to inform a follow-on ‘scaling up improvement’ project to refine the Aberdeen/Grampian model and create a best practice toolkit that can be adapted for, implemented and evaluated within other contexts and settings across Scotland/UK.

This project is advertised in relation to the research areas of APPLIED HEALTH SCIENCE. Formal applications can be completed online: You should apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Applied Health Science, to ensure that your application is passed to the correct person for processing.


Candidates should contact the lead supervisor to discuss the project in advance of submitting an application, as supervisors will be expected to provide a letter of support for suitable applicants. Candidates will be informed after the application deadline if they have been shortlisted for interview.

Funding Notes

This project is part of a competition funded by the Institute of Applied Health Sciences. Full funding is available to UK/EU candidates only. Overseas candidates can apply for this studentship but will have to find additional funding to cover the difference between overseas and home fees (approximately £15,680 per annum).

Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a First Class Honours degree in a relevant subject. Applicants with a minimum of a 2:1 Honours degree may be considered provided they have a Distinction at Masters level.


Wright J, Sim F, Ferguson K. Multidisciplinary public health. Bristol: Policy Press; 2016.

Griffiths S, Jewell T, Donnelly P. Public health in practice: the three domains of public health. Public Health. 2005;119(10):907-913

Davies S, Winpenny E, Ball S, Fowler T, Rubin J, Nolte E. For debate: a new wave in PHI. The Lancet. 2014;384(9957):1889-1895.

The Scottish Government. 2015 Review of Public Health in Scotland: Strengthening the Function and Re-Focussing
Action for a Healthier Scotland. Edinburgh

Health inequalities: mobilising the ‘wider public health workforce’. Perspectives in Public Health. 2014;134(2):6363.

Handal J. 2017. Exploring the Perceptions and Learning Needs of Aberdeen City Non-Health Workers on Public Health Improvement

Thompson T. 2017. Exploring the perceptions and learning needs of Aberdeen health related stakeholders towards health improvement

Health Foundation 2015. Evaluation: What to Consider. [ONLINE]

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