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Ulster University has joined the University of Hertfordshire, University of Birmingham and the University of East Anglia as research partners for a new National Institute Health Research (NIHR) funded three year programme to evaluate local authority public health interventions that aim to improve health in local communities and reduce health inequalities in the UK.

Part of the NIHR’s Public Health Research Programme, will connect new Public Health Intervention Responsive Studies Teams (PHIRSTs) with local authorities to facilitate, guide and evaluate their public health intervention schemes. The programme will enable local authorities to access research expertise from Universities and build further evidence bases for innovative new health intervention schemes.

PHIRST will contribute to the national strategic agenda for public health as we face ongoing issues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The evidence generated by the PHIRST will help to ensure effective and cost-effective public health interventions are identified, and where appropriate rolled out in other areas nationally.


Ulster University along with research partners are working on the following projects:

  1. The evaluation of remote delivery of drug and alcohol services in the city of Leeds during the covid-19 pandemic
  2. Evaluation of a national exercise referral scheme in Wales
  3. Evaluation of a Whole Systems Approach to diet and healthy weight in Scotland

Three further research projects will be delivered within the three-year period in response to public health need.


The lead for the Public Health Interventions Responsive Studies Team at Ulster University is Dr Gavin Breslin, School of Psychology, Bamford Centre for Mental Health and Wellbeing.

The project is led by Professor Katherine Brown and Professor Wendy Wills at the University of Hertfordshire and has been funded to region of £1.4m across three years).