Knowledge Mobilisation, Public and Community Involvement

Lead: Sally Sheard (University of Liverpool)

Social science research is focussing on the well-being of healthcare workers and the general public; understanding how individuals, communities and health care systems perceive risk; developing effective communication strategies for public and policy understanding of disease transmission and prevention; supporting the development of resilient populations and wider socio-economic systems.

Ongoing projects

Understanding the dynamics of policy development and healthcare worker behaviour in the UK during the COVID-19 public health emergency

In an infectious disease outbreak public health policymakers are under tremendous pressure, especially from the media. They must respond rapidly to and take decisions which impact enormously on healthcare provision.

Prof Sally Sheard and colleagues are studying conventional and social media trends during the COVID-19 epidemic, and are linking these to changes in UK policy, gaining unique insights through collaboration with key policy players. These include members of the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) that advises the Government, and Public Health England leaders. These experts are recording information on key meetings and events, and giving regular interviews their perspectives can be captured in real-time.

Sheard's team also examines the impact of the policy changes on healthcare workers in general practice and hospitals, through interviews and observations. Healthcare workers' perspective on delivering care during the epidemic, and how they perceive the changes in policy is fed back to policymakers during the outbreak. The approach is novel because policy decisions are usually only studied after an event, making the findings less reliable.

This resaerch was piloted with pump-prime funding from the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Emerging and Zoonotic Infections at Liverpool, and has been scaled up with support from the Medical Research Council.