Models of disease and vaccination scenarios in the UK

Our analytical research priorities range across a wide range of disease areas, with many cross-cutting methodologies and challenges; integration and analysis of diverse surveillance data; statistical methods for estimating unknown model parameters; genetic analysis of whole genome sequence data; and the development of simulation tools.

The HPRU in Modelling and Health Economics facilitates translation of its research into sustained gains in PHE’s capacity to collect, analyse, model and interpret diverse datasets by developing robust easy-to-use computer software for use by non-modellers and via a comprehensive training and capacity building programme.

Research themeLead staffDescription

Theme 1

Analysis, forecasting and response to outbreaks and acute health-system pressures

ICL: Sam Bhatt

LSHTM: Adam Kucharski

PHE: Andre Charlett

Infectious disease outbreaks cause substantial burden in communities and healthcare settings. More generally, unpredicted surges in healthcare demand (due to both infectious and non-infectious causes) require allocating expensive spare capacity, risk compromising patient care and impose extreme pressures on the NHS. This theme will elucidate key drivers of outbreak spread and healthcare demand surges, integrating these insights into forecasting and modelling / evaluation of mitigation approaches. By combining mathematical and statistical approaches with novel data sources, we will characterise the relative contributions of vaccination coverage, prior infections, outbreak response, and social behaviour to outbreak frequency and dynamics. We will also estimate the contribution of both infections and non-infectious causes (e.g. temperature fluctuations, exacerbated by climate change) to pressures on health care systems and model how these systems can be optimised. With Theme 3 we will estimate the cost of demand surges and mitigation measures. This will deliver more accurate, timely, and relevant public health forecasting.

Theme 2

Changing disease burden: drivers and intervention strategies

ICL: Majid Ezzati

LSHTM: Roz Eggo

PHE: Peter White / Raquel Duarte-Davidson

The UK is experiencing long-term changes in the burden of both infectious and non-communicable disease, with the ageing population (and consequent increased frequency of co-morbidities) and environmental change being key drivers. This theme will develop methods to synthesise evidence from empirical studies, surveillance, and electronic health records (EHRs), using big data to better understand changes in the aetiology and epidemiology of disease – including interactions between environment, climate, chronic and infectious disease. It will elucidate drivers of disease trends, and design and assess cost-effectiveness of interventions to improve health and reduce inequalities in a changing world. There are links to Themes 1, 3, and 4, and with multiple HPRUs (including the  Environmental, Climate and Chemical HPRUs, as well as the Gastrointestinal, Blood Bourne and Sexually Transmitted Infections, Immunisation, Respiratory Infections HPRUs) and collaborators e.g. providers of clinical services.

Theme 3

Behavioural and economic drivers of disease transmission and intervention policy effectiveness

ICL: Katharina Hauck

LSHTM: Mark Jit

PHE: Dale Weston / Julie Robotham

This cross-cutting theme examines the interaction of behavioural determinants and economic outcomes on both acute threats and long-term public health changes (themes 1 and 2). Economic evaluations of interventions are strongly dependent on methodological choices related to inequality aversion, externalities, behaviour change and social mixing. This theme will conduct surveys and experiments to understand public values and individual behaviour to inform intervention evaluation and modelling. The public health and ethical implications of such choices on economic models will then be explored, informing disease-specific HPRUs’ analyses of policies to combat Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR), introduce vaccines, and mitigate health impacts of environmental / climate change. Methods and findings of this theme will inform the work of the other themes and will be disseminated to other HPRUs and decision-makers.

Theme 4

Capacity-building, dissemination, translation, and tools

ICL: Anne Cori

LSHTM: John Edmunds

PHE: Gareth Hughes

Improving public health preparedness and response requires translation of our quantitative, model-based understanding of the drivers of public health threats into operationalised tools that are sufficiently robust for routine application by frontline professionals and national-level decision-makers (as applicable).  This is key to ensuring that the HPRU's research impacts public health.  This theme will work closely with other themes, and the Knowledge Mobilisation and Academic Career Development Leads, to: 1) identify priority areas for the development of operationalised modelling and health economics tools to support PHE's mission, 2) build upon existing open-source code to develop a new software toolkit which addresses these pressing needs and helps better prevent, detect, and respond to public health threats (including outbreaks), and 3)  deliver tailored training to public health professionals both in modern public health analytics generally and use of tools our HPRU develops.  Understanding and overcoming the barriers to adoption of analytical tools within PHE, NHS, local authorities and the wider public health community, and iterative improvement of tools, will be key aspects of the work.
Summary of the table's contents