A leading public health Professor at the University of Exeter has been recognised by the Faculty of Public Health (FPH) for outstanding work in his field.

Professor John Newton has won the Alwyn Smith Prize which was established in 1986 by Professor Alwyn Smith upon his retirement as President of the Faculty of Public Health to celebrate excellence in the contribution of members of the Faculty to the health of the public either through their research or practice in public health.

Professor John Newton, who received an OBE in 2023 for his services to public health, has been instrumental in developing the public health intelligence resources used on a daily basis by Directors of Public Health in local government to track the health of their communities. His work has included helping to establish national statistical tools such as the child height and weight measurement programme which provides key information on child obesity and health inequalities in England, and reporting the acclaimed Global Burden of Disease Study in published papers.

During the pandemic, Professor Newton was involved in overseeing and co-ordinating the production of the official UK Government Coronavirus Dashboard (formerly the Public Health England Dashboard), which compiled real-time data on numbers of cases, tests performed, deaths, hospital admissions and vaccinations. The dashboard was relied upon by members of the public during the pandemic, as well as by health professionals and Ministers in charge of the response. The dashboard was internationally recognised as a model of effective use of data and transparency. Professor Newton is also a co-author of the protocol for The Office for National Statistics (ONS) Coronavirus infection survey, another vital and internationally recognised tool for coronavirus surveillance. The ONS survey provided crucial information on numbers of infections and levels of immunity to support decision making during the pandemic and generated generalisable scientific evidence of global significance.

Professor Newton, Chair in Public Health at University of Exeter, said: “It’s an absolute pleasure and huge honour to receive this award from my peers at the Faculty of Public Health. It’s recognition of the work of so many talented and dedicated colleagues with whom I have worked on public health intelligence over many years, and in successive organisations. Alwyn Smith himself was known for his use of data and statistics to promote public health. It remains a strength of our current public health system that needs safeguarding for the future.”

Professor Kevin Fenton, President of the Faculty of Public Health, said: “The Alwyn Smith Prize is one of the Faculty’s most prestigious awards and we’re delighted to have this opportunity to recognise immediate past Vice-President of the Faculty Professor John Newton’s exceptional service to public health through the provision of high quality local and national public health intelligence.”

Professor Lisa Roberts, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Exeter, said: “We’re incredibly proud of John’s award. It is hugely deserved for the work he has done developing the tools used in safeguarding public health, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic. His contribution to the richness of research here at Exeter is immense, and indicates a clear and growing focus of our strengths around public health research. Congratulations, John, on this prestigious recognition.”