In its first ten years, DECIPHer undertook a diverse range of studies influencing and evaluating national public health policy decisions. Examples include evaluation of the National Exercise Referral Scheme, which continues to be implemented across Wales ten years after the trial, and research cited by Welsh Government as informing their decision to ban smoking in cars carrying children. From 2020, the new Healthy Public Policy programme will build on this work, aiming to influence decisions by national and local government organisations to improve population health and reduce inequalities, while evaluating the implementation and impacts of these decisions. With a particular focus on child and adolescent health and health inequalities, we will work with DECIPHer’s young people’s public involvement group ALPHA to shape the direction and priorities of the programme throughout the next five years.
Building on our track record in tobacco policy and its impacts on young people’s exposure to and use of tobacco, key policy areas will include regulation of unhealthy commodities. This will involve close partnership with the UKPRP consortium Shaping Public hEalth poliCies To RedUce harm (SPECTRUM), whose investigator team includes two members of the DECIPHer co-investigator team (Professor Graham Moore and Doctor Julie Bishop).
The programme will also focus on health impacts of policy decisions beyond the health sector, including education, social care, and welfare policy, linking to all three of DECIPHer’s other research programmes. It will connect to the Healthy Settings programme via work focused on education policy, such as ongoing research on implementation of curriculum reform in Wales. It will connect to the Healthy Social Relationships programme through work focused on child poverty and domestic abuse; a leading expert in domestic abuse policy, Prof Amanda Robinson, joins the DECIPHer team in 2020. This programme will also provide case examples of methodological innovation in policy evaluation and policy implementation research, connecting to our methodology teaching and research programme.
A major source of data for this work package, which will continue to be used to influence and evaluate government policy, will be the bi-ennial School Health Research Network (SHRN), Student Health and Wellbeing surveys, which are now linked to routine data via the SAIL databank. DECIPHer will work with the SPECTRUM consortium in extending the monthly smoking and alcohol toolkit surveys from England into Wales, and maximising their impact on policy decisions in Wales.