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Social Value Masterclass: Measuring the value of public health

February 28, 2024


Our health, social and economic systems are under increasing pressure from a range of challenges, such as the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, the cost of living crisis, and climate change. Progress in these systems made over the past decades is at risk and budgets are tighter than ever. This permacrisis has also exposed and exacerbated inequalities and a lack of resilience in our health systems.

Making spending and investment decisions that prioritise health and well-being can help tackle these challenges and have multiple co-benefits for other sectors to create thriving and fair communities and societies, sustainable economy, and healthy planet. Our understanding of “value” has traditionally focused on monetary (financial) worth or the ability to do more with fewer resources. This approach risks decision makers missing out on the full range of value generated by public health interventions, including wider economic, societal and environmental.

Internationally and nationally, frameworks and ways of thinking have emerged that address these issues by re-structuring and investing in systems more holistically, and emphasising the importance of health and well-being in decision-making processes. This narrative supports international commitments, such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and national legislation, such as the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act. Incorporating social, economic, and environmental outcomes into decision-making and funding prioritisation can help build a ‘Well-being Economy’, which places people and planet in the centre.

Introducing social value

Social value represents a new more holistic way of thinking (1,2).  There is no single, or gold standard definition of social value, however most definitions include the provision of economic, social, and environmental benefits to an area, community, or group of stakeholders. It moves away from narrow concepts of value for money (for example, Gross Domestic Product) (3) towards the view that people, society and the planet should be included in how value is measured and captured.

For public health, taking a social value approach can help make a better case for shifting budgets and investing in prevention. This is particularly important since public health interventions often include impacts such as improving the health, well-being, and living environment of population groups (4), which may not typically be considered through the traditional understanding of “value”.

Social value masterclass

The World Health Organization Collaborating Centre On Investment for Health and Well-being (WHO CC) at Public Health Wales is progressing a pioneering programme of work, applying a Social (Public) Value approach towards building a ‘Value-Based Public Health’ and a Wellbeing Economy in Wales. The WHO CC is creating a diverse and innovative portfolio of products and tools to strengthen the case for sustainable, equitable, evidence-informed and Value-Based investment in public health.

In January 2024, the Social Value team at the WHO CC delivered an online masterclass on the concept and application of social value to enhance understanding and assessment of the broader holistic value of public health. This complements the work on Sustainable Investment for Health & Well-being.

The specific objectives of this masterclass were to:

  • Promote the importance of capturing and measuring the wider value of public health.
  • Enhance understanding of why value and social value are important by introducing the strategic and policy context in Wales and beyond.
  • Showcase practical applications of how the social value of public health interventions and services can be captured.

The masterclass also explored how to measure social value through the Social Return On Investment (SROI) framework. This methodology was contextualised by drawing on a primary study involving sexual health screening in an open prison setting in Wales; as well as examples from literature reviews of public health interventions along the life course; mental health; and physical activity and nutrition.

Masterclass presentation video Social Value Masterclass: Measuring the Value of Public Health | PHNC Masterclass | January 2024 (

Link to masterclass slides Social Value Masterclass: Measuring the value of public health – Public Health Network Cymru


106 people attended the masterclass.

As a result of participating in the webinar:

  • 100% of attendees who provided feedback said they would go and find further information on the topic.
  • 81% of attendees who provided feedback said they would discuss the webinar with colleagues to inform action.

During the masterclass, attendees were asked how they envision using social value to support their work, objectives or priorities. Responses included utilising social value to improve commissioning, to better capture user voices, and to triangulate and gain consensus on interventions between stakeholders.

Next steps

Following on from this masterclass, the Social Value team will continue to engage and follow-up with stakeholders to enhance understanding, build capacity and grow out our network.

The Social Value team will continue to update the Social Value Database and Simulator (SVDS) with collated health economic evidence and public health studies utilising the SROI methodology.

We are also bringing together our health economics and social value work to support the organisation and wider NHS, and progress the Wellbeing Economy in Wales, delivering to the renewed Welsh Government / WHO Memorandum of Understanding (Written Statement: Renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding with the World Health Organization Europe).

To see more information about the Sustainable Investment work and Social Value team follow the links below.

Sustainable Investment for Health and Well-being

WHO CC Repository


  • Social Value UK. What is Social Value? [Internet]. Social Value UK. 2022 [cited 2024 Feb 2]. Available from:
  • Banke-Thomas, Madaj, Charles A, van den Broek N. BMC public health. 2015 [cited 2023 Jan 11]. Social Return on Investment (SROI) methodology to account for value for money of public health interventions: a systematic review. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih. gov/26099274/
  • Cylus J, Smith PC. The economy of wellbeing: what is it and what are the implications for health? BMJ [Internet]. 2020 Jun 16 [cited 2024 Feb 2];369. Available from:
  • Ashton K, Parry-Williams L, Dyakova M, Green L. Health Impact and Social Value of Interventions, Services, and Policies: A Methodological Discussion of Health Impact Assessment and Social Return on Investment Methodologies. Front Public Health. 2020;8:49.