PHR: Community-Wide Interventions for Physical Activity (NIHR Funding)

This call, issued under the Public Health Research Programme’s commissioned funding stream, seeks proposals for research to determine what community-wide interventions are effective in promoting physical activity.

Fund Information

Funding body:
National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)
Maximum value:
Application deadline:

Extended Description

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is tasked with maintaining a world-class health research system to facilitate the delivery of leading edge research into the NHS, focusing on the needs of patients and the public. In particular, the Institute is responsible for commissioning and funding NHS, social care and public health research to meet its responsibilities in public, health and personal social services. Its role is to develop the research evidence to support decision making by professionals, policy makers and patients, and make this evidence available and encourage its uptake and use.

The NIHR operates the Public Health Research Programme to evaluate public health interventions in order to provide new knowledge on the benefits, costs, acceptability and wider impacts of non-NHS interventions intended to improve the health of the public and reduce inequalities in health. The programme maintains two research funding streams: commissioned calls, and researcher-led.

This commissioned call 17/104 – Community-wide interventions for physical activity seeks proposals for research to determine what community-wide interventions are effective in promoting physical activity.

Physical inactivity is a health risk, contributing to over 52,000 deaths annually in the UK. Increasing physical activity levels can protect against health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cancers, and increase health and wellbeing. To date, there is a lack of evidence on the effectiveness of community-wide approaches to increase physical activity. According to the NIHR, further research is required to determine the effectiveness of community-wide interventions, which are theory-based, with good engagement across populations. Long-term, sustainable impacts of the intervention should be considered within the research. Studies may be large scale and should include evaluation of interventions with at least two components, or at least two interventions that target the whole community. Interventions for target populations at different life stages or with different needs would be welcomed.

Studies may evaluate multi-component interventions. Researchers are asked to specify and justify study design and indicate how long-term impact will be assessed. Interventions to be evaluated must be outside the NHS and the primary outcome must be health-related. Researchers should identify underlying theory and should include a logic model to help explain underlying context, theory and mechanisms.

Public health initiatives are complex and wide-reaching. Evaluation should acknowledge this by adopting a broad perspective, taking account of costs and benefits to all relevant sectors of society. For all proposals, applicants should clearly state the public health utility of the outcomes and the mechanisms by which they will inform future public health policy and practice. Details about the potential impact and scalability of interventions, if shown to be effective, should be provided.

Eligibility Criteria

Applications are welcome from any UK-based researcher who considers themselves able to carry out high quality medical research. Concerns regarding eligibility should be discussed with the NIHR at an early stage.

Successful proposals are likely to be multi-disciplinary, and draw on varying areas of expertise. For instance, proposals involving randomised control trials should solicit the input of an experienced trials unit. A commitment to team working is also encouraged, and applicants may wish to consider collaborative applications between several institutions.

Value Notes

There are no fixed limits on the duration or funding of this research, proposals should be designed to fully address the problem.

Eligible costs are the direct costs of the research itself, including data collection, analysis other activities necessary to address the question, trial registration, and the salary/indirect costs of the staff involved.


  • Travel costs should not exceed the HMRC-approved rate of 45p per mile for the first 10,000 miles, and 25p thereafter.
  • Items of equipment costing more than £5,000 will usually need to be leased.
  • Funding will cover conference fees where the relevance to the research of attendance is adequately justified.

Match Funding Restrictions

HEIs should determine the Full Economic Cost (fEC) of their research using the Transparent Approach to Costing (TRAC) methodology. Up to 80% of fEC will be paid, and applicants from HEIs should enter 80% fEC when entering the total costs requested.

For applications where the contractor is an NHS organisation, up to 100% of direct costs will be paid.

Commercial Organisations should include direct costs and commercial indirect costs (if appropriate). Indirect costs should be included in proportion to the amount of research staff effort requested on the funding application form. Up to 100% of costs will be paid.

Charities and NGOs should include direct costs and other partner organisations’ indirect costs. Indirect costs should be included in proportion to the amount of research staff effort requested on the funding application form. Up to 100% of costs will be paid.


The PHR Programme does not support:

  • Research for which there is not a strong and well demonstrated case for importance to public health.
  • Intervention and other non-research costs.
  • The testing of new health technologies or diagnostic techniques – these may fall within the remit of the HTA Programme.
  • Proposals which are solely or mainly surveys, audits or needs assessments.
  • PhD studentships.

Terms and Conditions

Proposals are assessed according to the following criteria:

  • Scientific quality:
    • Will the study improve understanding of the topic area?
    • Will the study make a substantial advance in scientific understanding/knowledge?
  • Feasibility:
    • Evidence of the necessary blend of skills, research experience, project management processes and infrastructure.
    • Explanation of the proposed number of participants, and demonstration of ability to recruit this number.
    • Consideration of social, ethical and legal implications of the proposed work.
  • Reasonable costs and value for money.

Application Procedure

Outline applications must be made via the NETSCC Management Information System (MIS). A full description of the application process beyond the outline stage is available via the NIHR website.

Application to Stage 1 closes on 20 March 2018 (1pm).

The NIHR Research Design Service and Clinical Trials Unit can assist with designing and developing research proposals.

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