An innovative and integrated model for global outbreak response and research - a case study of the UK Public Health Rapid Support Team (UK-PHRST)

Raftery, P., Hossain, M. ORCID: 0000-0002-1878-8145 and Palmer, J., 2021. An innovative and integrated model for global outbreak response and research - a case study of the UK Public Health Rapid Support Team (UK-PHRST). BMC Public Health, 21: 1378. ISSN 1471-2458

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Background: Despite considerable institutional experimentation at national and international levels in response to calls for global health security reform, there is little research on organisational models that address outbreak preparedness and response. Created in the aftermath of the 2013–16 West African Ebola epidemic, the United Kingdom’s Public Health Rapid Support Team (UK-PHRST) was designed to address critical gaps in outbreak response illuminated during the epidemic, while leveraging existing UK institutional strengths. The partnership between the government agency, Public Health England, and an academic consortium, led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, seeks to integrate outbreak response, operational research and capacity building. We explored the design, establishment and early experiences of the UK-PHRST as one of the first bodies of its kind globally, paying particular attention to governance decisions which enabled them to address their complex mission.

Methods: We conducted a qualitative case study using 19 in-depth interviews with individuals knowledgeable about the team’s design and implementation, review of organisational documents, and observations of meetings to analyse the UK-PHRST’s creation, establishment and initial 2 years of operations.

Results: According to key informants, adopting a triple mandate (response, research and capacity building) established the team as novel in the global epidemic response architecture. Key governance decisions recognised as vital to the model included: structuring the team as a government-academic collaboration which leveraged long-term and complementary UK investments in public health and the higher education sector; adopting a more complex, dual reporting and funding structure to maintain an ethos of institutional balance between lead organisations; supporting a multidisciplinary team of experts to respond early in outbreaks for optimal impact; prioritising and funding epidemic research to influence response policy and practice; and ensuring the team’s activities reinforced the existing global health architecture.

Conclusion: The UK-PHRST aims to enhance global outbreak response using an innovative and integrated model that capitalises on institutional strengths of the partnership. Insights suggest that despite adding complexity, integrating operational research through the government-academic collaboration contributed significant advantages. This promising model could be adopted and adapted by countries seeking to build similar outbreak response and research capacities.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: BMC Public Health
Creators: Raftery, P., Hossain, M. and Palmer, J.
Publisher: Springer Science and Business Media LLC
Date: 2021
Volume: 21
ISSN: 1471-2458
Rights: © The Author(s) 2021. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Laura Ward
Date Added: 24 Nov 2022 14:13
Last Modified: 24 Nov 2022 14:13

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