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Understanding barriers and facilitators to implementing regulatory mechanisms to restrict hot food takeaway outlets

Protection of public health has been identified as a key driver in restricting Hot Food Takeaways (HFTs). Currently, over 50% of Local Authorities (LAs) in England implement policies to regulate the opening of new businesses who wish to trade as a HFT. It is apparent that staff in LAs, both in public health and planning, would benefit from applied public health research in order for them to collate robust evidence and respond effectively and efficiently to overturn future appeals. This project aims to provide public health officers, policy planners and development control planners with applied public health research knowledge from which they can draw upon to make sound decisions in evaluating evidence to ensure they are successfully equipped to deal with and defend such appeals.

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Improved use of routine data to assess and evaluate food environments

Mounting evidence links quantity and mix of high street food retailing, in particular, easy access to takeaway (‘fast-food’) outlets selling energy-dense, nutrient poor hot food for consumption off the premises, with socioeconomic inequalities, unhealthy diet.  This science has direct links to policy through informing ‘healthy’ neighbourhood design. However, most evidence is cross-sectional and descriptive, limiting scope for causal inference. Longitudinal and quasi-experimental studies are rare. This is partly a reflection of insufficient or inadequate data pertaining to the neighbourhood food environment and locations of food outlets as environmental risk factors for diet and disease, over time.

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Local government interactions with harmful commodity industries

Industries that produce harmful commodities such as high fat, salt or sugar foods and beverages, tobacco and alcohol have been identified as major vectors of behavioural risk factors for non-communicable diseases. The aim of the proposed work is to better understand the nature and extent of such interactions in local government, explore stakeholder views on this issue and the need for guidance, and if justified, develop a set of principles to guide local commercial strategies. While we will explore all harmful commodity industries, the proposed work has a particular focus on the food industry due to the numerous known interactions with local authority, importance to national/local public health priorities and lack of guiding frameworks.

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Evaluation of the removal of HFSS ‘junk-food’ advertising in public transport networks on junk-food awareness and purchasing in London

Marketing and branding is effective in encouraging the purchase and consumption of unhealthy food and drink, but the impact of outdoor advertising specifically needs further research (PHE, 2018). Advertising not only influences adult behaviour but also children’s food choices resulting in pressure being put on parents to buy unhealthy foods. This project aims to undertake (i) an impact evaluation and (ii) a process and implementation evaluation of the removal of high fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) advertising on: exposure to HFSS advertising, perceptions of HFSS foods and food purchasing in London.

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Knowledge exchange: engagement and translation of learning points into action and impact with stakeholders

This is the knowledge exchange (KE) work package for the Places & communities programme (P&C). ‘Knowledge exchange’ translates research evidence into practice for public and practitioner audiences and endorses collaborative work between researchers, decision-makers and members of the public. It also includes a study designed to test how local authorities are translating programme findings into policy and practice.

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Improving methodology for place and community-based public health natural experiments and interventions

Public health researchers often study events, policies or initiatives that they do not have any direct control over. For example, the introduction of the smoking ban in Scotland in 2006 and subsequently in Wales, Northern Ireland and England in 2007. These evaluations can provide important evidence in for public health, but they can be hard to evaluate.

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Places & communities - What is known? Stakeholder views and research synthesis

Public health funding in local authorities has been reduced every year since 2015/16, with further cuts of around £600 million by 2020/21. Local public health practitioners participating in the 2017 School for Public Health Research sandpit events were clear that more evidence of impacts, feasibility and cost-effectiveness was needed to support decisions around reducing health burdens and inequalities during times of economic scarcity and uncertainty about future resourcing.  As a result of these discussions this work package aims to inform local level decision-making on delivering place-based strategies to improve health and reduce inequalities during times of economic insecurity.  It begins with review of academic literature, followed by workshops with practitioners, policy-makers and members of the public to understand the different approaches available to delivering cost-effective public health strategies in times of reduced funding. 

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Mapping the child health system at a local level to reduce health inequalities

Giving every child the best start in life is a policy priority in England, yet we currently lack understanding of how to support children at a local level. To address this, we are undertaking a programme of research to better understand child health systems at a local level in order to identify opportunities for intervention.

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Harnessing data to improve child health

Children in the UK have poor health compared to other Western European countries, and there are large and increasing inequalities in child health, including for mental health and obesity. Over the last 20 years numerous reviews of evidence and policy have repeatedly emphasised the need to provide better support early in children’s lives if we are to have any chance of significantly reducing the inequalities in life chances experienced by people in the UK. To address these challenges, we propose a programme of work with a focus on harnessing data to evaluate systems-based approaches for improving children and young people’s outcomes.

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Examining the policy context for reducing health inequalities among children and young people

In order to identify and explore local system-wide approaches to reducing inequalities in children and young people’s health in England, it is essential to have a rounded understanding of current national policies. We also need to understand the issues that local policy makers and practitioners are navigating to try and implement these policies in a local decision-making context. This research will be framed by a social determinants of health perspective to ensure we identify the full range of policies with the potential to influence child health inequalities.

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