Making the case for investment in public health: Experiences of Directors of Public Health in English local government

M. Willmott*, J. Womack, W. Hollingworth, R. Campbell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Background Amid local government budget cuts, there is concern that the ring-fenced public health grant is being appropriated, and Directors of Public Health (DsPH) find it difficult to make the case for investment in public health activity. This paper describes what DsPH are making the case for, the components of their case and how they present the case for public health. Methods Thirteen semi-structured telephone interviews and a group discussion were carried out with DsPH (November 2013 to May 2014) in the Southern region of England. Results DsPH make the case for control of the public health grant and investing in action on wider determinants of health. The cases they present incorporate arguments about need, solutions and their effectiveness, health outcomes, cost and economic impact but also normative, political arguments. Many types of evidence were used to substantiate the cases; evidence was carefully framed to be accessible and persuasive. Conclusions DsPH are responding to a new environment; economic arguments and evidence of impact are key components of the case for public health, although multiple factors influence local government (LG) decisions around health improvement. Further evidence of economic impact would be helpful in making the case for public health in LG.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237-242
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Public Health
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by Public Health England. M.W., W.H. and R.C. work in The Centre for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement (DECIPHer), a UKCRC Public Health Research Centre of Excellence. Joint funding (MR/KO232331/1) from the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Economic and Social Research Council, Medical Research Council, the Welsh Government and the Wellcome Trust, under the auspices of the UK Clinical Research Collaboration, is gratefully acknowledged. Views expressed in this paper do not represent those of the funders or the UKCRC. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or manuscript preparation.


  • Management and policy
  • Public health
  • Young people


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