Health of the public in 2040

The Academy is undertaking a project that aims to identify the main health challenges the UK population will face by 2040, and the opportunities to address them, in order to inform future strategies and recommendations for research.



Many of the health challenges of the future, such as an ageing population, pandemics and obesity, can only be fully addressed through measures to improve thephysical and mental health of the population as a whole and by preventing disease before it reaches the clinic.

This project offers an opportunity to introduce new thinking in this area, and to ensure that by 2040 multidisciplinary research underpins interventions to improve the health of the public, with highly skilled research workforce and strong links between evidence, policy development and service delivery.

The working group, chaired by Professor Dame Anne Johnson FMedSci, will use evidence collected on factors affecting future trajectories, as well as anticipated opportunities and challenges, to develop a vision for the health of the public in 2040. This will inform strategies and recommendations — in terms of research evidence, research capacity, research infrastructure and the mechanisms for translating research into practice — both within health and related areas.

The project was launched alongside a workshop that brought together key stakeholders to explore the visions for the desired state of the nation’s health in 2040, and the drivers of change that will affect the health of the public over the course of the next 25 years.

1.    To recommend to relevant decision-makers the requirements for supporting the health of the UK population in 2040 – in terms of research evidence, research capacity, research infrastructure and the mechanisms for translating research into practice. Specifically, the project will consider how to:     

  • Capitalise on the opportunities created by advances in all areas of science and technology.
  • Bring together and ensure necessary research capacity across the full range of disciplines required to address future challenges.
  • Ensure an appropriate interface between researchers, policymakers and practitioners.

2.    In pursuit of this aim, to address the following questions in the context of the future health of the UK population:

  • What are expected to be the main challenges by 2040, and what are the opportunities to address them?
  • What are the research and research infrastructure requirements to address these challenges and realise these opportunities?
  • How can we effectively train and link researchers and practitioners?
  • How can we ensure that the development of public policy and practice is informed by evidence (including from evaluation)?

The final report will be aimed at policymakers, funders, researchers (including trainees), professional and regulatory bodies, public health service providers, and the public. It will be published in Summer 2016.

While the project will consider the research and mechanisms needed to support decisions about different interventions to address challenges to the health of the public, it will not make recommendations about specific interventions. And while it may occasionally draw comparisons between the current public health structures in the UK and an ideal scenario, it will not assess the strengths and weaknesses of the current system. The project will focus primarily on the UK, but will draw on international experience and knowledge.

Professor Dame Anne Johnson DBE FMedSci (Chair of the working group) Chair of the Population and Lifelong Health domain, and Vice Dean for External Relations, Faculty of Population Health Sciences UCL

Professor Carol Brayne FMedSci Director of the Cambridge Institute of Public Health, University of Cambridge

Professor Rachel Cooper OBE Professor of Design Management, University of Lancaster

Professor Yvonne Doyle Regional Director for London, Public Health England

Professor David Ford Professor of Health Informatics and Chair of the College of Medicine, Swansea University

Professor Sarah Harper Director, Institute of Population Ageing, University of Oxford

Dr Vittal Katikireddi Clinical Lecturer in Public Health, MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow

Professor Catherine Law CBE FMedSci Professor of Public Health and Epidemiology, UCL Institute of Child Health

Professor Paul Little FMedSci Professor of Primary Care Research, University of Southampton

Professor Dame Sally Macintyre DBE FMedSci Director of the Institute of Health and Wellbeing, University of Glasgow

Professor Johan Mackenbach Chair of the Department of Public Health at Erasmus MC, University Medical Centre, Rotterdam

Professor Theresa Marteau FMedSci Director of the Behaviour and Health Research Unit, University of Cambridge

Councillor Jonathan McShane Cabinet Member for Health, Social Care and Culture, London Borough of Hackney

Dr Geoff Mulgan CBE Chief Executive of the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts (Nesta)

Baron Peter Piot CMG FMedSci Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Professor Jules Pretty OBE Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Professor of Environment & Society, University of Essex

Professor David Stuckler Professor of Political Economy and Sociology, University of Oxford

Project launch and visioning workshop [November 2014]
The project was formally launched in November 2014 with a day-long workshop, chaired by Professor Dame Anne Johnson DBE FMedSci, which brought together a diverse, interdisciplinary mix of stakeholders to explore aspirations for the desired state of the nation’s health in 2040 and the drivers likely to influence the direction of change over the next 25 years. This workshop significantly informed the working group’s early discussions. A report summarising the event has since been published.

Call for written input [March 2015] 
A call for input was launched in early March to build on the outputs of the initial workshop and other research conducted by the working group. Closing on 4 May, the call for input allowed the working group to hear a broad range of views and aspirations concerning the future health of the UK population

Verbal input sessions [May – July 2015]
Seven roundtable discussions were subsequently hosted to supplement the written input received, with each focusing on a specific set of influencing factors identified in the earlier stages of the project:

  • The built and natural environment
  • Education and working life
  • Technological change
  • Demographic change, family life and relationships
  • Economic and political systems
  • Health-related behaviours
  • Health systems and health protection 

Through these sessions, working group members were able to probe particular areas of interest in more detail, focusing on the research implications of the information gathered, in order to support the development of conclusions and recommendations.

Second stakeholder workshop [July 2015] 
A second one-day stakeholder workshop was held on 29 July. As with the roundtable discussions, its main focus was to explore the research implications of the work completed by the working group so far. The event was attended by around 50 key stakeholders, with a particular focus on researchers, practitioners, policymakers, and those working in research infrastructure.

The Academy has been curating a series of dialogue events, in order to gather a snapshot of public views to feed into the project.

The total programme of public events comprised of seven film screenings and six workshops around the UK, supported by a Wellcome Trust People Award.

The film screenings show a collection of public health announcements from the twentieth century, which are often highly amusing, accompanied by a panel of experts to give modern context, and look at the future trajectory of these fields. These films are available from the Wellcome Trust archive

The workshops bring together small groups to discuss the future of public health, and people's individual fears and aspirations.

The cities covered by this programme of events were: London, Birmingham, Sheffield, Cheltenham (at the Science Festival) , Newcastle, Glasgow, Liverpool and Brighton. 

For more information about the Academy's public engagement work, visit our "Encouraging dialogue" section

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