The 2019/20 Bennett Prospect Public Policy Prize has been won by Vageesh Jain - a UK medical doctor currently training in public health in London. Vageesh is a public health registrar working in local government in the London borough of Hackney, and an NIHR Academic Clinical Fellow at UCL.
The £10,000 prize for early career policy research seeks to answer a critical public policy question. In 2019 it asked: ‘Which single public health intervention would be most effective in the UK?’
The winning essay has now been published online in Prospect, with an introduction from Vageesh highlighting how the current pandemic has shown the need to improve health across populations as an aspiration for governments.
A number of entries looked at improvements to lifestyle and policy to improve overall health in communities to lead to healthier outcomes across the nation. Vageesh’s essay ‘The Food & Beverage Industry Levy (FBIL)’ recommended to impose a levy on industry consisting of a combination of individual taxes on unhealthy food and beverages. He advised that price increases resulting from the levy must be generous to encourage industry to reformulate, and reinforced through the reform of the wider fiscal system affecting goods.
Mike Kenny, Director of the Bennett Institute commented: “The judges were impressed with both the quality of the research, and the practical approach in this essay. The policy proposal is implementable and the writer has considered the funding avenues well. We are delighted that this year’s prize has gone to someone working actively in public health and that we can support an early career researcher in this field.”
Vageesh spoke about his current research: “I am working on a range of projects in Hackney, including a cardiovascular disease prevention strategy, and an evaluation of lifestyle weight management services. I have also been supporting the International Rescue Committee (IRC) on an assessment of the WHO non-communicable disease (NCD) kit. My interest in public health and policy developed after seeing first-hand the preventable nature of many conditions presenting to hospital. I came across the idea of using tax as a public health intervention whilst doing an academic project last year. Combining an understanding of health economics, policy and epidemiology; the distribution of diseases and their risk factors in the population, was fundamental in writing this policy proposal and I learnt a great deal in the process. Moving forward, I hope to develop my expertise in public health, applying my skills to influence policy and improve the health of populations.”
Dr Vageesh Jain, Public Health Registrar, London Borough of Hackney
Food & Beverage Industry Levy (FBIL)
2019/20 runners up:
Bessie O’Dell, DPhil Student in Psychiatry, University of Oxford, UK
Access Mental Health Services (AMHS): A proactive approach to the identification and treatment of depression
Kendall Jamieson Gilmore, PhD student at the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna in Pisa, Italy
Building healthier communities
Dr Oliver Mytton, public health doctor and Clinical Lecturer in public health at the MRC Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge.
The Healthy Food Act