Public Health and Prevention Economics Research at Bangor – a new network

Professor Rhiannon Tudor Edwards, Co-Director of the Centre for Health Economics and Medicines Evaluation (CHEME) part of the Bangor Institute for Health and Medical Research (BIHMR) is launching the Public Health and Prevention Economics Research Group network across BU and BCUHB. The network will bring together researchers active in economic evaluation of public health and preventative interventions across the region. Rhiannon said “We have worked for many years with Public Health Wales, the Faculty of Public Health and academic public health research groups at Liverpool, Glasgow and Newcastle. The network is attracting interest from colleagues across BCUHB, strengthening links between the University and Health Board, and Public Health Wales. With growing interest in expanding medical education in Bangor, we are already offering a student selected component experience week to C21 2nd to 4th year medical students at Bangor.”

Recent developments at Bangor University mean that we have health economists working independently right across the College of Human Sciences and this new network will bring together these colleagues, e.g. working at the new Applied Learning for Preventative Health Academy (ALPHAcademy); Celtic Advanced Life Science Innovation Network (CALIN), and within the School of Medical and Health Sciences. It is estimated that 80 percent of non-communicable disease is preventable. As the UK emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic, with backlogs in demand for diagnostic tests, surgery and rehabilitation, Bangor is well-placed to contribute to the evidence base on the cost-effectiveness of public health preventative interventions. Professor John Parkinson, Dean of the College of Human Sciences, said, “Bangor University is looking to build strength and scale in its areas of research excellence, and to build multidisciplinary teams to address societal challenges. This network has the expertise and quality to deliver to such a brief and in so doing support significant impact in the post-pandemic era.”

We will focus on the economic evaluation of primary, secondary and tertiary prevention. We will work in an inter-disciplinary way and where possible at a “systems level” with respect to the “Building Back Fairer” agenda set by Professor Sir Michael Marmot. Adding to an established portfolio of UK-wide projects, Rhiannon will be working with a team of public health researchers, led by Professor Ben Barr at the University of Liverpool, on a three-year study funded by NIHR (£850K) looking at opportunities for management and prevention of debt through signposting in health care settings. Public health and prevention economics research underway by colleagues at Bangor spans the life-course (see Figure 1). For example, schools-based studies addressing the immediate and longer term impact of bullying in schools (e.g. the KiVa study), led by Professor Judy Hutchings, Bangor University, funded by NIHR (£2.3M), right through to economic evaluation of preventative exercise programmes for people with dementia and their carers, the PRAISED study, led by Professor Rowan Harwood, University of Nottingham, funded by NIHR (£3M). Many public health and prevention interventions are led and delivered by the third sector. The Public Health and Prevention Economics Research Group network will also bring together colleagues working on social return on investment (SROI), from our CHEME Social Value Hub across the School and BCUHB, on studies such as the EMD Coaching programme (see Staff Bulletin 26/07/21). Jointly with health economists at Swansea University, we have received £1.2M infrastructure funding for Health and Care Economics Cymru from Health and Care Research Wales. Prevention economics is a key research theme in our work at an all-Wales level.

Figure 1. Shifting the curve towards prevention and early years investment

Source: Edwards et al. (2016). Transforming Young Lives across Wales: The Economic Argument for Investing in Early Years.

As we wish one of our current Public Health Economics Research Group (PHERG) network members, Dr Jo Charles, well as she takes up her new role as Deputy Head of Health Economics at Welsh Government, we are currently advertising for a Grade 7 Research Officer in Health Economics and advertising two new PhD studentships, funded by Hywel Dda University Health Board, to begin their career in  public health and prevention economics research.

Rhiannon and colleagues working in the established PHERG at CHEME published the first textbook in the application of health economics to the evaluation of public health interventions. Colleagues working in public health and prevention economics across Bangor are currently finalising the manuscript to a second book on the Health Economics of Well-being and Well-becoming: Post-pandemic Opportunities for Research and Policy, to be published in 2022 by Oxford University Press.

Rhiannon said, “The Public Health and Prevention Economics Research Group network will offer a methodological hub to staff with both teaching and research roles working in this field at Bangor to discuss their ongoing projects, seek and share opportunities for collaboration on grant applications and publications and learn from each other.”

Publication date: 9 August 2021