Wellcome Trust report reviews 20 years of population and public health
News / Published: 7 April 2013
This week sees the World Health Organization celebrating the 63rd World Health Day, held on 7 April each year to coincide with the founding of the organisation. Also this week, the Wellcome Trust launches its latest portfolio review, 'Population and Public Health, 1990–2011', which describes the key breakthroughs in the field over the past two decades and identifies the Trust's role during this time.
The review is intended to help inform future funding strategy by bringing together the reflections of an expert group – chaired by Dr Jeffrey Koplan, Vice President for Global Health at Emory University, Atlanta – with views on current challenges and future research opportunities, both for the Wellcome Trust and for others involved in supporting population and public health research.
Between 1990 and 2011, the Trust spent £634 million on population and public health research, which represents nine per cent of its total funding commitment during this time. The report concludes that there are four broad areas in which the Wellcome Trust is thought to have had a significant impact on the field:
- its long-term funding of projects and researchers, which has helped to nurture some of the current leaders in the field
- its investment in research capacity building and infrastructure in low- and middle-income countries, which has helped to bring about several major discoveries of relevance to endemic health issues
- its committed support to longitudinal studies, both in the UK and in low- and middle-income countries
- its leading role in the open access and data sharing agenda, which is starting to have a significant impact upon research and associated research management, and policy in the field of population and public health.
With the help of experts in the field, through a consultation survey and the in-person group, the review identifies several current and future challenges for population and public health research. These include:
- the consideration of whether existing funding mechanisms are appropriately structured to support the valuable multidisciplinary nature of population and public health research in the UK and beyond
- a need to attract high-quality researchers from a range of different backgrounds to build and sustain capacity
- an often-cited requirement for research to be effectively translated into policy, and the need to involve public health practitioners and policy makers in research to ensure better translation in practice
- a need to tackle non-communicable diseases, climate change, and ageing and its associated mental health issues, which are perceived as the most important issues researchers will face in the future
- considerable investment in research methods (in addition to randomised control trials) to support the rigorous evaluation of public health interventions and programmes.