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Q&A: King's College London's Professor Mark Ashworth

Our Research Specialty Lead for Public Health, Professor Mark Ashworth, speaks about his work for CRN South London, achievements this year, and hopes for 2023.

What does your role as our public health research specialty lead entail?

I work with the CRN South London team to sift through potential public health projects to drum up interest in the work of the CRN within our local public health teams. Public health teams are situated within borough councils, which has resulted in some interesting meetings taking me into unfamiliar territory outside the usual scope of NHS research, such as focusing on care homes and learning disability services.

What three things are you most proud of achieving in the role in 2022?

It has been a significant achievement getting on the agenda for the monthly Directors of Public Health meetings. In these meetings, I deliver a short presentation about the CRN and possible CRN funding for public health research within the boroughs of south London.

I have attended two of their meetings, one for the six Directors of Public Health in south-east London and one for the six Directors of Public Health in south-west London. The issues are very different in each borough, and it is fascinating to determine whether current research project recruitment could align with those differing interests.

What are your plans for the role in 2023?

Although I'm leading on public health for the CRN, my clinical experience is as a primary care clinician rather than a public health specialist. With the recent award of the NIHR Research Engagement Network Development Programme funding to a King's Health Partners consortium, including the CRN, I've been going out to Primary Care Networks (PCNs) to gauge the level of interest in a community-led project led by Mabadaliko. The project involves working with PCNs and looking at each PCN's broader public health agenda. Despite substantial workload pressures, there is considerable interest in this project, which is a part of primary care and public health.

How does it feel to be a Professor of Primary Care at King's College London?

I'm proud to be able to represent primary care at the level of 'professor'. I plan to use this platform to reach out to south London primary care colleagues and show the benefit and fun of research engagement. My academic remit does straddle the boundary of public health and primary care, and it is these intersections that I'm keen to develop.

How important is the CRN in supporting public health research?

We need the CRN. The CRN is highly effective at reaching out to all constituents within the south London patch and offering research recruitment opportunities, with funding, to local public health leaders and teams. Many studies will not be able to recruit if we merely rely on the old networks of the usual suspects engaging in research.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.