Wider horizons, wiser choices: Horizon scanning for public health protection and improvement

Graham J. Urquhart*, Patrick Saunders

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Background Systematic continuous thinking about the future helps organizations, professions and communities to both prepare for, and shape, the future. This becomes ever more critical given the accelerating rate at which new data emerge, and in some cases uncertainties around their reliability and interpretation. Businesses with the capability to filter and analyse vast volumes of data to create knowledge and insights requiring action have a competitive advantage. Similarly Government and the public sector, including public health can be more effective and efficient through the early identification of emerging issues (both threats and opportunities). Methods Horizon scanning approaches, and the use of resulting intelligence related to health protection and improvement were reviewed. Results Public health horizon scanning systems have to date focussed on health technologies and infectious diseases. While these have been successful there is a major gap in terms of non-infectious hazards and health improvement. Conclusion Any system to meet this need must recognize the changed environment for delivering front line public health services and the critical role of local authorities and the local democratic process. This presents opportunities and challenges and this paper explores those dynamics describing an existing environment and health horizon scanning system which could readily and rapidly be re-engineered to provide a national service.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)248-253
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Public Health (United Kingdom)
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Faculty of Public Health. All rights reserved.


  • environment
  • public health
  • socioeconomic factors


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