Health Communication & Public Health Messaging Funding Call

National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR)The Public Health Research Programme (PHR) is accepting Stage 1 applications to their commissioned workstream for this topic.

In order to apply you will need to carefully review the:


Proposals received by 1pm on 16 August 2022, and deemed within remit, will be assessed for their importance to public health by the Prioritisation Committee (PC) in September 2022.

Shortlisted Stage 1 proposals from this round will be considered by the Funding Committee (FC) in October 2022, and assessed for scientific quality, feasibility and value for money. Applicants will be informed of the FC’s decisions in late October 2022, and successful applicants will be invited to submit a Stage 2 application. Applicants have eight weeks to complete and submit a Stage 2 application for it to be considered at the February 2023 Funding Committee.

Please note: If a very high response is received, some stage 1 applications may not be taken forward for further assessment if they are deemed to be non-competitive and/or it may be necessary to defer some stage 1 applications until a later date. ‘Non-Competitive’ means that a proposal is not of a sufficiently high standard to be taken forward for further assessment in comparison with other proposals received and funded by the PHR Programme because it has little or no realistic prospect of funding. This may be because of scientific quality, cost, scale/duration, or the makeup of the project team.

All primary research projects are expected to establish a programme appointed Study/Trial Steering Committee and it is important that you read the TSC/SSC Guidance before completing your application. Costs incurred by this committee should be included in the budget as appropriate.


Whilst this is not a call for specifically COVID-19 related research, the experience of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns may have stimulated interventions and learning that would be generalizable to other infectious diseases.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of clear public health messaging and effective communication between the government, the media and the public in regard to managing outbreaks of infectious disease. These aspects of health communication are necessary for promoting positive health behaviours and the uptake of preventative measures which are, in turn, essential for reducing transmission and infection rates during a period of infectious disease outbreak.

Understanding the most effective ways to communicate rapidly changing health information and ensuring trust and compliance is vital for public health.

Areas of interest

For the purposes of this call, several broad themes have been described below with examples of particular areas of interest for research. All research proposals should address the potential impact on health inequalities and equity of access.

A range of study designs and outcome measures could be used. Researchers will need to identify and justify the most suitable methodological approach. Researchers will also need to specify key outcome measures and specify how these will be measured in the short, medium and long term. Primary outcomes must be health related.

Relevant populations or sub-groups may be studied, based on factors such as age, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status or other socio-demographic factors. Researchers should specify and justify their choice of intervention (if applicable) and the relevance to the population being studied and the outcomes being measured.

Areas of interest include (but are not limited to):

  • How do people receive guidance? How can we make sure they are following the most up-to-date guidance when it changes frequently?
  • How do we stop the guidance from becoming self-defeating because it encourages other behaviours that are detrimental to health (e.g. discourages exercise, self-isolation leads to mental health problems) or life (e.g. travelling by car)?
  • How acceptable health communication is found to be across different populations, e.g. different ages, cultures, ethnicities, employment groups (such as those jobs requiring contact with other people, e.g. carers, emergency services), across urban and rural locations, different social groups. What support would benefit individuals from underserved populations, for example, minority ethnic groups, adults who are not eligible for or are on the fringes of social care, people with profound and multiple learning disabilities, autistic people without learning disabilities.
  • Using community assets, including faith groups, to reach underserved populations.
  • Developing an understanding of how to support communication to the general public about the powerful role they can play in reducing disease transmission, for example different messaging may be required about virus transmission, vaccination, and how to reduce shared risk (such as mask wearing, social distancing, etc.).
  • Ensuring clear and consistent public health messaging for people who have had a vaccination, e.g., still following public health measures post-vaccination as people can still transmit viruses despite having had the vaccine
  • What forms of health communication have been most successful, e.g. government briefings, podcasts and blogs summarising the information, social media? Have innovative methods of communication been utilised?
  • Enhancing trust and acceptance of government guidance by the media and general public, particularly when this guidance frequently changes.
  • Examining the spread of inaccurate information and conspiracy theories and their impact on population behaviour and adherence to guidance.
  • Monitoring adherence with public health measures, e.g. local and national lockdowns, curfews, wearing of face coverings, limiting social contact.
  • Differences in government approaches to the framing of public health messages across multiple countries.

Applications should be co-produced, demonstrating an equal partnership with service commissioners, providers and service users in order to provide evidence and actionable findings of immediate utility to decision-makers and service users. Applicants may wish to consult the NIHR guidance on co-producing research. (.PDF)



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