New generation of PhD researchers to tackle the world’s biggest public health issues

  • £5 million funding for a new PhD programme in public health economics at the University of Sheffield to address the world’s most critical public health issues
  • A new generation of 35 students will conduct research that will inform public health policy and decision making at a global level
  • The programme will widen access to those who might not otherwise have the opportunity to study at postgraduate level

A £5.24 million investment by the Wellcome Trust will fund 35 scholars from the UK and overseas to carry out ground-breaking public health research at the University of Sheffield.

The Doctoral Training Centre at the University of Sheffield will provide the opportunity for the brightest graduates from a wide variety of disciplines to specialise in public health economics research. It will also provide opportunities for those who may have not felt able to further their academic career in public health before.

The new programme – led by the School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) – will focus on how health policies, strategies and systems can best be coordinated and prioritised. Students will research which sets of policies and interventions can best tackle the key causes of ill health and health inequalities, for example health-risk behaviours and the so-called social determinants of ill health, which include a lack of education, financial stability, employment or secure housing.

Petra Meier, Professor of Public Health and Director of the Doctoral Training Centre at ScHARR, said: “Worldwide, chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer now account for around 70 per cent of premature deaths. Our doctoral researchers will work to identify the most cost-effective public health policies and interventions to reduce these types of ill health and how different interventions can be coordinated to maximise impact.

“As chronic diseases are rapidly overtaking infectious diseases as the key causes of disability and death in most parts of the world and as a global priority, we need to know which prevention strategies work best. So it is vital that we train a new generation of researchers who will be at the forefront of promoting public health.”

The funding award from the Wellcome Trust recognises ScHARR as a provider of excellence when it comes to public health and economics research; with a programme built on high-quality research training. The programme is designed to give students the opportunity to develop their own ideas and engage with real-life decision makers, supported by academics from across university faculties and disciplines.

Professor Meier added: “With this new PhD programme we will be recruiting the brightest candidates, whatever their circumstances, opening up a route to postgraduate research training for those who may have felt unable to further their academic career this far before.

“We strongly encourage those who have grown up in areas where few people study for PhDs, or who have circumstances that could be barriers to doctoral research, such as have caring responsibilities or a disability, to look out for our pre-application question and answer sessions. Scholarships cover tuition fees, research costs and a monthly stipend, there is the possibility of part-time study and students on the programme will find a supportive research environment.”

The new PhD programme will start in autumn 2020 and information will be available on the ScHARR website from mid-October 2019.

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