Public involvement & engagement

Evaluating the Best Start in Life Alliance

How Fuse is helping one of its local authority partners to evaluate its innovative interventions using national funding from the School for Public Health Research.

South Tyneside Council’s public health team saw the SPHR’s Public Health Practice Evaluation Scheme (PHPES) as a potential opportunity to evaluate some innovative interventions being developed, implemented or underway in the borough. The PHPES scheme enables public health practitioners, who are introducing innovative initiatives in improving health, to work in partnership with researchers linked to SPHR to conduct rigorous evaluations of their cost-effectiveness, with an emphasis on local, rather than national, public health initiatives.

The Best Start in Life Alliance is one of several Alliances in the borough which bring together key stakeholders from across the health and care system, including the voluntary sector, around a particular theme or population group. The evaluation aims to understand the impact of this way of working, as well as focus on the three interventions that the Alliances govern in conjunction with the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) Strategic Alliance and the council's Health & Wellbeing Board. The three interventions are:

  • Best Start In Life Partnerships;
  • Locality hubs using a multidisciplinary team approach; and
  • Mental Health Champions Network and Young Health Ambassadors.

The team initially compiled a list of 13 interventions and with the help of a half-day workshop co-hosted by the AskFuse brokering service, the Best Start in Life Alliance (BSIL) was identified as the most relevant project. Following further brokering from the AskFuse manager, researchers from two Fuse universities with particular expertise in child health, mental health and grant applications came forward to support the evaluation.  

The AskFuse service next supported the Alliance in applying for the highly competitive PHPES funding. This was a 6-month process involving expressions of interest, a stage one application, and a stage two full proposal application. In addition, AskFuse supported the development of a 'blended' team of local policy-makers, practitioners and evaluators, embedded research staff in South Tyneside Council, and a local resident as a Patient and Public Involvement co-applicant to ensure that the voice of local people was central to the evaluation. Out of 91 registrations of interest in the PHPES funding, the South Tyneside Best Start in Life Alliance was one of only 10 proposals that were successfully funded. The evaluation started in April 2020 and is due to finish in December 2021, and will involve children and families as well as service providers. 

When it comes to disseminating the evaluation results, the Alliance will benefit from Fuse’s extensive regional and national network of policy and practice practitioners, and opportunities for innovative research dissemination through the Centre’s dedicated knowledge exchange and communications functions. 

SPHR website:

South Tyneside Best Start in Life Alliance / Public Health Practice Evaluation Scheme (PHPES)

Linked SPHR themes/programmes:

Public Health Practice Evaluation Scheme (PHPES)


Image: 'Best-start-in-life-logo' courtesy of South Tyneside Council:

Last modified: Tue, 26 Jan 2021 23:07:44 GMT