Video: Nicola Sturgeon praises ScHARR Public Health

Nicola Sturgeon MSP praised ScHARR Public Health section to a sold-out audience of 1,200 at the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) annual lecture on “Scotland and the UK: economic policy after the EU referendum”


Nicola Sturgeon: “…and from my time as Health Secretary in Scotland I’m very aware of, and very grateful for, the quality of the work done by the School of Public Health here. Its Alcohol Research Group carried out  an extensive study on alcohol minimum pricing which underpins the legislation that the Scottish Parliament passed on that issue back in 2012.

Now, that legislation has faced significant court challenges, but following a positive court judgement last month we may now be getting to a position where we can implement it. If that is the case, then work done here in Sheffield will contribute to saving dozens of lives in Scotland every year. And the Public Health School, I think,  is a good example of the excellence of this University’s work.”

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International News

Welcome to the inaugural ScHARR International news bulletin where we share with you updates from the Internationalisation Committee and others from around ScHARR. Enjoy!

Welcome to Prof Luc De Witte

We’d like to warmly welcome Prof Luc De Witte who has recently joined ScHARR. Luc was previously professor of technology in care at Zuyd university of applied sciences and Maastricht University in the Netherlands, and runs an exciting and innovative ‘Health in Slums’ research project in India. Our staff have already managed to get involved in his work developing mobile technology for health in urban slums. Read Luc’s bio here.

Global Challenges Research Fund

This is a new £1.5 billion investment fund over the next 5 years for research projects that tackle international development issues. GCRF projects must be in countries eligible for development assistance. ScHARR has been involved in 5 of the 12 submissions from the University so far to the GCRF, and 2 have made it to the next round so we wait we bated breath for the results! Interested to find out more? Go to


International Research Stimulation Event

Some of our team are hard at work organising a research stimulation workshop, planned for early January/February 2017 where we hope to generate some world class research ideas and bids. Watch out for this!

Global Health Systems Research

Later in November, a large contingent of global health researchers from ScHARR will be attending and presenting at the 4th Global Symposium on Health Systems Research in Vancouver.


Superbugs in Turkey

Evangelos and Andrew recently returned from Istanbul where they have been working with Turkish clinicians on a study of infections with carbapenemase producing enterobacteriaeceae (i.e. the dreaded SUPERBUGS!) in patients in intensive care.

Andrew and Evangelos.pngA follow up visit in early 2017 is planned with our colleagues from the Department of Infection and Tropical Medicine, Royal HallamshireHospital to build up links.

Find out more about their visit here. (PS you may need to use Google translate if you’re not fluent in Turkish!)

Successful Gates Foundation bid

Congrats to Michelle Holdsworth and Robert Akparibo on their successful research bid to the Gates Foundation. They’ll be exploring dietary transitions in Ghanaian cities and mapping the factors in the social and physical food environments that drive consumption of energy dense nutrient-poor (EDNP) foods and beverages. Read more about it here.

In other news…

Visitors and new friends

In recent months, Dr Ishtar Govia from University of the West Indies (Jamaica), and Professor Sujan Marahatta from Manmohan Memorial Institute of Health Sciences (Nepal) came to visit. We’re also developing new links with University of San Francisco Quito (Ecuador) and Wits University, South Africa.

Goodbye Michelle!

We also say goodbye to our wonderful admin support and friend Michelle Johnson who amongst other things helped to look after ScHARRlotte when she was not on her travels and kept up ScHARRlotte’s blog. We are now looking for someone to come join our team and care for ScHARRlotte. If you are interested, please contact Andrew Lee or Denise Faulkner ( )

scharrlottePhoto of ScHARRlotte on her travels in Bangladesh





Like to join our committee? The next meeting is on Tuesday 17 January 2016, Pemberton B. All welcomed!

Have an international story or bit of info you’d like to share? If so, contact Andrew (

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The Rise of Co-Production: Benefits, Opportunities and Challenges

Sheffield Voices

By Sara Hodgkinson, Melanie Rimmer and Sarah Salway

In the context of healthcare, new concepts and buzzwords periodically appear, each carrying with them the promise of innovation and progress.  The emergence of ‘co-production’ might initially have appeared to be just another trending catchphrase, yet the term appears to have established some credibility within the public health realm.  Co-production refers to a collaborative process where healthcare providers work with healthcare users to shape health services with the intention of better tailoring them to need.  This approach contrasts with the more typical ways of designing and delivering services where important decisions are made solely by those in positions of power.

The idea behind co-production is that by engaging service users in the design and creation of services, this will achieve better outcomes.  But co-production isn’t just for service provision – it can also be used to make research more relevant by incorporating the views and ideas of local people in designing and carrying out projects (Durose et al., 2011).  Because co-production can potentially include and involve groups of people that are easily excluded from research, it has been of particular interest to health equity researchers.

Several of our recent projects have used co-production.  For example, one study aimed to develop health education materials on the topic of genetic risk associated with close relative marriage. We worked closely with members of the community to understand how they saw the issue, and used these insights to develop a print leaflet and an informational video that were then tested.  The team trained and employed local people as co-researchers to engage and involve local people who might otherwise have been missed.  Community researchers generated useful insights that helped to shape materials that were relevant and sensitive to local needs.  However, the project also had challenges. In particular, not everyone in the community agreed with each other, and the community researchers sometimes found it difficult to navigate the range of perspectives held by different people, demonstrating one of several possible pitfalls of co-production.  Co-production ‘blurs the lines’ between the professional and lay divide (Owens and Cribb, 2012: 268), but it is important not to place responsibility for the production of new knowledge in the hands of lay people alone.  The value of collaboration should not be discounted, but it can be a challenge for co-production to separate the helpful information from that which is simply available. In other words, whilst all lay knowledge is valuable in its own right, not all will be usable.

It has been argued that co-production has the potential to reduce inequalities by giving a voice to service users whose views and needs are frequently overlooked.  As an example, one of our recent projects – ‘WiLD: Weight Loss for people with Learning Disabilities’ – used co-production to explore how the Slimming World weight loss programme might be adjusted for people with learning disabilities.  Insights and ideas from people with learning disabilities and Slimming World group leaders were used to make reasonable adjustments which were then tested in a small feasibility study.  The team then made recommendations to Slimming World for further adjustments.  Co-production was central to the design of the study and fundamental to its overall success. However, involving people with learning disabilities in the research required additional resource and time, and also necessitated various modifications to standard research methods, such as consent procedures. Researchers embarking on co-production projects without adequate awareness and preparation will at the least find the process frustrating and worse still may stray into unethical practice and inefficient use of resources (Salway et al., 2015).

Despite testimonies to the value of co-production, there is still some scepticism and a lack of consensus about what constitutes co-production and how it might best be achieved.  The Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) states that “there is no single formula for co-production” (2013), and this is echoed by others who highlight the “elasticity” of co-production as a term, and the broad scope of what the term might be used to mean (Needham et al, 2014: 3).  The term “co-production” can be used to describe such varied methods as: professional and peer support networks for knowledge sharing; reciprocal relationships between service providers and users; and the personal development of individuals through positive use of lay knowledge and capabilities. Without clear definitions and descriptions it can be difficult to ensure that co-production methods are utilised most appropriately and effectively in research or policy making.

So what does the future hold for co-production?  Will we see an upsurge in the use of co-production as researchers and policy makers recognise its worth and seek to improve the relevance of their work?  Or will the ambiguity and challenges put people off from using these methods?  It is clear that – when employed thoughtfully – co-production has the potential to revolutionise particular forms of research and service design. However, to ensure co-production delivers benefits to those who have previously been catered to least, there is clearly a need for significant new skills, resources and commitment to a different way of working.


Croot, L., Rimmer, M., Dowse, E., Harris, J., Hatton, C., Hillier, S., Lavin, J., O’Cathain, A. and Salway, S. (2016) ‘Modifying mainstream weight management interventions for use with people with intellectual disabilities: a user centred approach’, Obesity Facts 2016; 9 (suppl 1): 1-368 available at

Durose, C., Beebeejaun, Y., Rees, J., Richardson, J. and Richardson, L. (2011) Towards Co-production in research with communities, Swindon: AHRC

Needham, C., Durose, C., Mangan, C. and Rees, J. (2014) Evaluating co-production: pragmatic approaches to building the evidence base.  For Co-production Panel, Political Studies Association Conference, 14-16 April 2014, Manchester, UK.  Birmingham: University of Birmingham

Owens, J. and Cribb, A. (2012) ‘Conflict in Medical Co-Production: Can a Stratified Conception of Health Help?’ Health Care Analysis, 20 (3): 268-280

Salway S., Chowbey, P., Such, E, and Ferguson, B. (2015) ‘Researching health inequalities with community researchers: practical, methodological and ethical challenges of an ‘inclusive’ research approach’, Research Involvement and Engagement, 1 (9) available at

SCIE (2013) What is co-production – Defining co-production. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Aug 2016]


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Nicola Sturgeon MSP Praises ScHARR Public Health at SPERI Annual Lecture

ns1The First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon called for a shift away from austerity and a move towards major investment in jobs and public services in a speech at the University of Sheffield last night (7 November 2016).

Ms Sturgeon addressed a sold-out audience of 1,200 at the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) annual lecture on “Scotland and the UK: economic policy after the EU referendum”

In her address, the First Minister praised the work of the Alcohol Research Group at the University’s Sheffield School of Health and Related Research, whose study on minimum unit pricing of alcohol underpins an Act of Parliament passed by the Scottish Parliament in 2012.

She said: “That legislation has faced significant court challenges, but we may now be getting towards a position where we can implement it. If that is the case, then work done here in Sheffield will contribute to saving dozens of lives in Scotland every year.

“The Public Health School is a good example of the excellence of this University’s work.”

Read Nicola Sturgeon’s full speech.

Watch the speech here.

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Researchers putting Sheffield on the path to a healthy future

The Sheffield Telegraph published a special report about the Yorkshire Health Study, the largest long term health study in Yorkshire, led by a team of researchers at ScHARR.

Read more at:

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Five fully-funded PhD studentships available in the Wellcome Trust Doctoral Training Centre for Public Health, Health Economics and Decision Science

firthcourtbanner1Join the research effort to reduce the burden of chronic disease

Chronic disease accounts for the majority of the burden of disease in the developed world. This burden can be reduced through well-targeted and co-ordinated public health policies. Public Health Decision Science explicitly seeks to identify which combinations of interventions to prioritise for action, and to estimate their return on investment. This programme will prepare graduates for rewarding careers in academia or stakeholder organisations allowing them to contribute to public health decision making to reduce the burden of disease in the UK and internationally.

About the programme

Generously funded by the Wellcome Trust, our four-year PhD Programme in Public Health Decision Science provides unique interdisciplinary training to equip graduates to be public health leaders and decision scientists of the future.

The first year offers a unique training opportunity; students will have access to senior scientists and public health decision makers and take a range of self-selected taught modules to complement their existing skills. Health and social sciences graduates will develop advanced quantitative analytical skills and those with quantitative analytical degrees will receive training in public health. Rotations through three “research attachments” will allow students to experience research in multiple topic areas with potential supervisors before finalising the topic of the research project they will complete during years two to four.

Available funding

We award 5 studentships per year (three funded by the Wellcome Trust and two by the University of Sheffield), two of which can cover overseas fees.

Each studentship provides

  • a stipend of £19,919 pa increasing to £23,997 pa over the 4 years
  • tuition fees for 4 years, worth £5,052 pa for Home/EU students or £18,750 pa for international students.
  • A generous contribution to research and travel costs


  • will be an academic high achiever with an undergraduate degree in a relevant discipline (including but not limited to mathematics, statistics, epidemiology, psychology, quantitative sociology, politics, economics, systems engineering, business studies, or geography)
  • have completed a relevant Masters degree and/or gained significant relevant work experience
  • will have quantitative maths skills equivalent to A at A-Level (can be evidenced through degree level courses)
  • will demonstrate English proficiency (IELTS) if you are an international students


The closing date for receipt of all required documentation and references is

16 December 2016.

More information & how to apply

Please visit


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Scottish courts back minimum alcohol price

Plans to set a minimum price for alcohol in Scotland have today (21 October 2016) been backed by the Scottish courts.

Research conducted by experts from the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group (SARG)1 at the University of Sheffield have been influential in providing evidence to inform policy which now paves the way for the Scottish government to implement the new plan, passed by MSPs in 2012.

The Scottish government, health professionals, police, alcohol charities and some members of the drinks industry believe minimum pricing would help address Scotland’s “unhealthy relationship with drink”.

mainHealth gains

Experts from SARG based at the University’s School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) estimated that implementing a 50p minimum unit price (MUP) for alcohol in Scotland would have the following effects after one year:

  • 60 fewer deaths due to alcohol
  • 1,300 fewer hospital admissions due to alcohol
  • 3,500 fewer crimes due to alcohol

The health gains will continue to increase over 20 years and researchers estimate that the full effect of the policy would be:

  • 120 fewer deaths due to alcohol each year
  • 2,000 fewer hospital admissions due to alcohol each year

Under a 50p MUP in Scotland, alcohol consumption is estimated to fall by 3.5 per cent overall and by seven per cent among harmful drinkers compared to 1.2 per cent among moderate drinkers.2

For harmful drinkers, this equates to 250 fewer units of alcohol per year – approximately equivalent to 125 pints of beer, 25 bottles of red wine or over six litres of vodka.

The Scottish Court of Session particularly examined whether equivalent benefits to public health could be achieved by increasing alcohol taxes. Analyses by the University’s research group, which were commissioned by the Scottish government, show that:

  • To achieve the same reduction in deaths as would be achieved by a 50p MUP, alcohol duties would need to be increased by an estimated 27 per cent.
  • To achieve the same reduction in deaths among harmful drinkers as would be achieved by a 50p MUP, alcohol duties would need to be increased by an estimated 36 per cent.
  • To achieve the same reduction in deaths among harmful drinkers in poverty (the group at greatest risk from their drinking) as would be achieved by a 50p MUP, alcohol duties would need to be increased by an estimated 70 per cent.

Professor Petra Meier, Director of SARG, said: “Our analyses of minimum unit pricing have consistently shown that the policy is an effective and well-targeted approach to reducing the harm caused by alcohol.

“Increasing alcohol taxation is also an effective approach but large tax increases would be required to achieve the same effects as a 50p minimum unit price. This is because minimum unit pricing targets the high-strength and low-cost alcohol which is disproportionately purchased by heavier drinkers.”

Under the plans, a price of 50p per unit of alcohol would be set, taking a bottle of spirits to a price of at least £14.

Additional information

1 Estimates of the effects of minimum unit pricing and increases in alcohol taxation are produced using the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model. Further information can be found at the following links:

A summary of the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model

The most recent estimates for Scotland of the impact of minimum unit pricing and taxation on health outcomes (PDF)

The most recent estimates for Scotland of the impacts of minimum unit pricing and taxation on alcohol-related crime and workplace related outcomes (PDF)

The most estimated for England of the impact of minimum unit pricing

2 Moderate drinkers are those consuming no more than 21 units per week for men and 14 units per week for women. Harmful drinkers are those consuming more than 50 units per week for men and 35 units per week for women. One unit of alcohol is 7.9g of pure ethanol. There are approximately two units in a normal strength pint of beer, 10 units in a bottle of red wine and 40 units in a litre of vodka.

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Double Research Innovation Grants from Alcohol Research UK

wineglassesResearchers in the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group in ScHARR have recently been awarded two Research Innovation Grants from Alcohol Research UK. These grants are awarded to projects which take a novel approach to address alcohol-related problems and which aim to improve public knowledge on alcohol.

In a time when increasing demands are being placed on ever more stretched NHS budgets, alcohol places a substantial burden on the healthcare system, estimated at over £3.3billion each year. Alcohol is also a major driver of socioeconomic inequalities in health, which place an additional burden on society. The successful grants, which will run for 18 months, will provide new evidence to policy makers and healthcare professionals on the impact of alcohol on Primary Care and the potential of Primary Care-based interventions to alter this.

The first project, led by Duncan Gillespie and involving researchers at the Universities of Sheffield and Nottingham, aims to quantify the burden that alcohol places on primary care in England. The project will develop methods to estimate the financial costs of Primary Care consultations, including prescribing, that occur because of alcohol consumption. The findings will help to engage Primary Care professionals and policy makers as stakeholders in alcohol harm reduction.

This is an opportunity to understand the financial burden that alcohol imposes on primary care, and the actions that primary care practitioners are taking to reduce this burden.


The second project, led by Colin Angus and involving researchers at both the Universities of Sheffield and Newcastle, will look at the extent to which Screening and Brief Interventions (SBIs) in Primary Care impact on alcohol-related inequalities in health. SBIs form a major part of NICE guidelines on the management of hazardous and harmful drinking in Primary Care, yet delivery rates remain low. This project will analyse Primary Care records together with a range of national survey data to understand how current SBI delivery and potential alternative delivery strategies are likely to impact on population health and NHS costs as well as on health inequalities. These findings will help local and national policy makers design more effective and cost-effective SBI policies and potentially reduce inequalities in health.

We are developing new methods to make use of a vast dataset of primary care records in collaborations with partners at the Universities of Nottingham and Newcastle


Image CC BY 2.0 Kimery Davis

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Welcome to new students for ScHARR, 2016-17

We are delighted to welcome our new students for 2016-17!

Super friendly, helpful and welcoming from the first ever contact I made.

Been great so far. Intro week has been very relevant and informative.

Very extensive support services provide by ScHARR and the university – super impressed


This year, we have more than 100 new students starting on our 10 postgraduate programmes in the School, from 38 different countries. We are also welcoming many students not pictured who will be studying online. We look forward to learning with you over the coming months and years.

New ScHARR students 2016-17Welcome to ScHARR, University of Sheffield 2016

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Pioneering trial to increase breastfeeding rates nationwide


We’ve designed a scheme to get more women breastfeeding across the UK.

The project, known as the NOurishing Start for Health (NOSH) is aimed at boosting breastfeeding rates in areas where levels remain low.

As part of NOSH, women are offered shopping vouchers worth £120 if they breastfeed their baby for up to six weeks and a further £80 if they continue breastfeeding for another six months.

The scheme is already being rolled-out to 5,000 eligible women across Sheffield, Doncaster, Bassetlaw, Rotherham and areas of North Derbyshire, covering a total of 46 electoral wards.

These areas are identified as having poor breastfeeding rates and the results will be compared with those from similar regions where the scheme has not been trialled.

Principal investigator Dr Clare Relton from the University of Sheffield’s School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR), said:”For several decades now the majority of babies in the UK have not been getting enough breast milk, and despite many efforts, this situation has not improved. The trial enables us to find out whether offering vouchers for breastfeeding can significantly increase our stubbornly low breastfeeding rates.”

If more women breastfed for longer the NHS could save more than £17 million in hospital and GP visits

The health benefits of breastfeeding are well-documented. Dr Clare Relton said: “Breastfed babies are less likely to be obese when they grow up and they less likely to be hospitalised.”

If more women breastfed for longer the NHS could save more than £17 million in hospital and GP visits. But in some areas of the UK only 12 per cent of mothers breastfeed six to eight-week old babies.

“Rates tend to be worse in areas of deprivation,” said Dr Relton. “And in the UK our national rates are among the lowest in the world – far below France, Belgium and even America.”

The trial – which was designed by University researchers in collaboration with healthcare professionals – has already seen positive results. Mothers participating in NOSH said they felt acknowledged for their effort, with one mother describing her experience of the scheme as: “Getting something good for doing something good.”

Another mother taking part said: “Sometimes you think ‘should I just move on to the bottle now?’ and then I think ‘oh but then I won’t get the money to be able to treat them’, so it does help.”

Mary Renfrew, Professor of Mother and Infant Health at the University of Dundee, who collaborated in designing the trial, said: “In areas where most babies are bottle fed women need support to breastfeed. This scheme could make a difference. It’s great to be able to test it properly in a large trial.”

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