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How do you develop systems leadership in public health? Insights from a scoping study

Evans, David; Bolden, R.; Jarvis, Carol; Mann, Richard; Patterson, Mark; Thompson, Elinor

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David Evans
Professor in Health Services Research

Richard Bolden
Dir of Res Ctr - Ldrship & Behav Change

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Carol Jarvis
Professor in Knowledge Exchange, Public and Business Engagement and Innovation

Richard Mann

Mark Patterson

Elinor Thompson


Objectives: Systems leadership is widely acknowledged to be needed to address the many ‘wicked issues’ challenging public health systems. However, there is a lack of evidence on how to develop public health professionals into effective systems leaders. This study scoped the possibilities for developing the systems leadership capacity of public health specialists in England. Study design: This was a mixed-methods qualitative scoping study design. Methods: The study involved three stages. In the first, a rapid literature review mapped key documents in three relevant areas: systems leadership theory and practice, the changing context of public health in the UK, and training and development for UK public health professionals. In the second, 29 stakeholders were consulted to understand the context and needs for systems leadership development in public health. A third phase involved stakeholders codesigning a potential development framework for the project commissioners. Results: Four main themes were identified: the nature and purpose of systems leadership; development needs and opportunities for public health specialists; the enabling environment; and wider contextual factors impacting public health. Conclusions: Key principles of, and a framework for, a systems leadership development approach are identified, which could be applied to any public health system.


Evans, D., Bolden, R., Jarvis, C., Mann, R., Patterson, M., & Thompson, E. (2021). How do you develop systems leadership in public health? Insights from a scoping study. Public Health, 196, 24-28.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 4, 2021
Online Publication Date Jun 13, 2021
Publication Date 2021-07
Deposit Date May 13, 2021
Publicly Available Date Jun 14, 2022
Journal Public Health
Print ISSN 0033-3506
Electronic ISSN 1476-5616
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 196
Pages 24-28
Public URL


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