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Section 2 Introduction

We are Public Health Wales – the national public health organisation for Wales. Our purpose is ‘working together for a healthier Wales’.

We help all people in Wales live longer, healthier lives.

We have a Long Term Strategy (2023-35) which sets out our vision for achieving a healthier future for people in Wales by 2035. We are committed to working towards a Wales where people live longer, healthier lives and where everyone has fair and equal access to the things that lead to good health and well-being.

The Research and Evaluation Strategy is an enabling strategy which helps us deliver our Long Term Strategy.

To implement the strategy we will:

  • Identify research and evaluation priorities that will influence the population health research agenda
  • Lead and work with partners on a robust research and evaluation portfolio to produce and use evidence to enhance population health
  • Shape research and evaluation to understand what approaches are effective and how they can be implemented to enhance the health of the population and lessen health inequalities in Wales. 

The Welsh Government's plan for Health and Social Care "A Healthier Wales" highlights that an evidence-driven approach, using research, evaluation, knowledge, and information to understand what works and work with others, is a fundamental principle for driving change and transformation across the population health system.

As the NHS organisation providing public health leadership in Wales, it is our duty to promote a research and evaluation agenda that produces high-quality evidence and contributes to our knowledge of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health and wellbeing for everyone.

In this strategy, research and evaluation are defined as distinct activities:

Research is aimed at filling gaps in the evidence base, while evaluation is focused on understanding the impact of specific interventions, programs, or policies on health outcomes. While both research and evaluation are important, they serve different purposes in the context of improving population health.

Research can take many different forms, but the essential feature is the systematic and rigorous approach to answering a defined question or hypothesis.

This can involve various methods, such as qualitative or quantitative research, and different study designs, including observational or experimental studies.

The aim of research is to generate new knowledge that can be of value to others in similar situations, and to contribute to the evidence base that informs public health practice and policy.

Primary Research

Primary research involves involves collecting new data from scratch, often through experiments or surveys, to address specific research questions.

Secondary Research

Secondary research on the other hand, involves analysing and synthesising existing data and research findings from a variety of sources, such as health surveys, administrative records, or published literature.

This can be done through methods such as systematic reviews or meta-analyses to provide a comprehensive understanding of a particular topic.

Evaluation can be used to determine whether an intervention, policy, or program has achieved its intended goals and to identify any unintended consequences.

It can also help to identify the mechanisms by which an intervention works, and to assess the extent to which it can be scaled up or replicated in other settings.

Research and evaluation play a vital role in informing the evidence base that supports public health policy and practice. They help us to better understand the root causes of poor health and aid in the development of public health interventions, treatments and services such as new vaccines and public health policies.

Research helps us answer questions and gaps in our knowledge, for example:

  • ‘What are the key causes of poor health?’,
  • ‘Are different factors more important for some groups or at certain points over our life course?’

Research can help us develop and test new tools to improve health. 

Evaluation helps us:

  • to assess the impact of ours and others' actions on the health and well-being of people in Wales
  • to better understand what works to improve health
  • and how that differs across groups and the reasons for any difference
  • so we can determine "what works, for whom, and why." 

As the lead organisation for delivering public health services in Wales, we are responsible for conducting rigorous evaluations that provide a structured assessment of interventions, programs, or policies to understand their impact on health in Wales.

Given the complex factors which affect our health and the need to work with many different organisations to improve health, research and evaluation activities are critical to finding innovative ways to achieve effective change.

This plan shows that Public Health Wales is committed to research and evaluation to find ways to improve health, reduce inequalities, and promote well-being in Wales.

In this strategy we explain our plans for research and evaluation within Public Health Wales, the areas that we will concentrate on and how we will work with our partners across Wales and globally to produce and encourage rigorous research and evaluation.