Health of the public in 2040

From 2014-16, the Academy undertook a project exploring how the UK’s research environment needs to adapt to meet the health challenges the population will face by 2040. This piece of work is now being revisited in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and changes to the UK's public health structures.

Status: Revisiting

The Academy is revisiting the 2016 working group recommendations - please see the associated tab on our 2023 update statement. 

Over the coming decades, the UK population will face a wide range of complex health challenges and opportunities, many of which can only be fully addressed through strategies to secure and improve the health of the public as a whole.

The Academy’s report, ‘Improving the health of the public by 2040’, explores how to organise our research environment to generate and translate the evidence needed to underpin such strategies. The Academy has since undertaken a variety of activities to implement the report’s recommendations and in 2022, conducted a review of the report's recommendations.

The report concludes that while public health research has provided fundamental insights into human health, there remains much we do not know about the complex array of interlinking factors that influence the health of the public, and about how to prevent and solve the many health challenges we face as a population.

Solving these challenges will require shifting towards a ‘health of the public’ approach, involving disciplines that would not usually be considered to be within the public health field. This is turn requires six key developments:

  1. Rebalancing and enhancing the coordination of research.
  2. Harnessing new technologies and the digital revolution.
  3. Developing transdisciplinary research capacity.
  4. Aligning perspectives and approaches between clinical and public health practice.
  5. Working with all sectors of society, including policymakers, practitioners, the commercial sector and the public.
  6. Engaging globally.

This project was guided by a Working Group of a wide range of experts, chaired by Professor Dame Anne Johnson DBE FMedSci. A full list of Working Group members can be seen here, and project contributors is available here.   

The project was kindly supported by Wellcome and the Medical Research Council.


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