The Nightingale: time to get serious about addressing the social, behavioural and environmental influences on health

Public health Health inequity Sustainability Medical technology Consumer directed care Evidence-based policy Health Social determinants of health Telehealth United Kingdom

For too long the UK has promised to tackle health inequalities and improve health but hasn’t followed through with sufficient investment or action. This means we know a lot about what causes good and bad health, but woefully little about how best to improve it.

As the Government prepares its green paper on prevention, it simply won’t be enough to double down on their commitment and hope for different results. It’s time for a radical shift in investment, infrastructure and evidence, building our collective understanding of how to create and sustain the best conditions for good health, through a step-change in investment for evidence-based solutions.

We propose a new centre of innovation and research excellence to turn this ambition into reality, drawing expertise from across public health and behavioural and social sciences, with the best practices from human-centred design, citizen science and asset-based community development.

We suggest calling it ‘The Nightingale’, in honour of Florence Nightingale’s vital contribution to public health research and practice.

In this paper we recommend that the Nightingale:

  • cuts across disciplines (eg public health, research, social sciences, data, design and community development) to reflect the multifaceted nature of public health challenges and the impact of local context and experience;
  • operates an intensive R&D model that creates evidence-based solutions at pace, using a combination of creative ideas, practical experimentation and rigorous evaluation which goes beyond research alone; and
  • receives a budget of £140 million per year by 2025, equivalent to that of the Francis Crick Institute.
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