Public Health

Our Public Health research activity shares a common concern to illuminate the social determinants of inequalities in health and to produce and exchange evidence to reduce these inequalities. The research is multidisciplinary drawing on economics, geography, history, mathematical modeling, social psychology, sociology and statistics, including within the Centre for Health Equity and Knowledge Exchange, Centre for Disability Research (CeDR) and Health Economics at Lancaster (HEAL) research group. It includes basic, applied and methodological research focusing on social and policy issues internationally, nationally and locally. We have a strong commitment to involving the public and other stakeholders in our research to maximize its relevance and the impact it has on policy, practice and community action to improve population health and reduce health inequalities.

Research areas

Particular research areas within the public health theme include:

  • The health and social equity outcomes of urban regeneration programmes aiming to support community empowerment
  • Developing methods for the evaluation of public health interventions
  • The economics of chronic disease prevention and health related behaviour including work on obesity and diabetes
  • Modelling health care systems and efficiency measurement with respect to the production of health and health care
  • The impact of chronic illness on people's employment and financial circumstances including work on gender inequalities and specific conditions such as ischaemic heart disease
  • The impact of social context and inequalities on the physical and mental health of people with intellectual disabilities and evaluating innovations in social policy and practice addressing these inequalities
  • The relationships between sexuality, gender and health including work on adolescent health, masculinities and risk taking behaviour and on suicide and self-harm amongst young LGBT people
  • Inequalities in comorbidities, physical health outcomes and service provision for those with severe mental illness
  • Developing approaches to assess the impact of public involvement in research

Research successes

Notable research successes include:

  • Lancaster and Liverpool Universities have established LiLaC – the Liverpool and Lancaster Collaboration for Public Health Research. LiLaC is one of the eight academic centres of public health excellence making up the NIHR School for Public Health Research (SPHR) with a budget of more than £20m over five years (2012-17). Jennie Popay is national Deputy Director of the NIHR SPHR and leads the School's Health Inequalities Programme (with Halliday and Collins) in a collaboration of five SPHR members. This programme, with a budget in excess of £1m, involves the evaluation of a £200m+ natural experiment in community empowerment – The Big Local – funded by Big Lottery. Our academics also contribute to cross school programmes on healthy ageing (Milligan) and Alcohol and Health (Collins, Halliday, Limmer, Pacentini in management school) and research modelling the health equity impact of diverse interventions (Diggle)
  • Improving Health and Lives, the Public Health England sponsored Learning Disabilities Public Health Observatory. Co-directed by Chris Hatton, this is a collaboration between Public Health England, Lancaster University and the National Development Team for Inclusion. Lancaster's work involves the production of statistical analyses of the inequalities experienced by people with intellectual disabilities and systematic reviews of evidence on interventions to improve their health
  • NIHR CLAHRC: Lancaster is one of three academic partners in the NIHR Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research & Care for the North West Coast. The budget is in excess of £20m over five years and the partners include NHS organisations and local authorities along the NW coast. Popay is Director of Engagement for the CLAHRC NWC and leads a programme of research working to integrate health equity goals into local authority policies (involving Cartwright, Hatton, Holland, Hollingsworth, Limmer, Milligan). Other Lancaster academics are contributing to the public mental health research theme (Jones, Lobban)
  • Community Engagement, regeneration and public health: Two linked grants (Department of Health Policy Research Division 2010-13; and NIHR Public Health Research Programme 2011-14 totally ) have supported an innovative evaluation of the impact on social determinants of the New Deal for Communities regeneration programme and the programme approach to community engagement. This community driven programme ran from 1999 for ten years and involved public investment of almost £2billion
  • LGBT Youth Suicide Prevention Project. Funded by the Department of Health (309K), this study is a collaboration with the University of York and aims to investigate suicide, self-harm and help-seeking behaviours of 16 to 25 years old young LGBT people. This 23-month project commences on 1st February 2014
  • MRC funded methodological research on assessing the impact of public involvement in research. This recently completed research has produced a web-based resource – the Public involvement Impact Assessment Framework – to support academics to undertake robust evaluations of the impact of public involvement in their research


Researchers working in this area, together with a short description of their research interests, are listed below.

  • Dr Susannah Baines: health status and health inequalities of people with learning disabilities for the Improving Health and Lives: Learning Disabilities Observatory
  • Professor Susan Cartwright: occupational stress and organizational health and well being, health auditing, ageing and work, meaning of work and emotional intelligence
  • Dr Michelle Collins: health, health equity and public involvement in research at both the agentic (e.g. smoker identity and behaviour) and the structural (e.g. the Local Authority alcohol harm reduction policy context) levels
  • Professor Eric Emerson: understanding the influence of social determinants of health (e.g., poverty, social exclusion, discrimination) on the wellbeing of people with disabilities
  • Dr Emma Halliday: evaluating the health inequalities impact of policies/actions, with a particular focus on area based initiatives and community empowerment
  • Professor Chris Hatton: Co-Director of the Public Health England-sponsored Learning Disabilities Public Health Observatory: intellectual (learning) disabilities including examining and working to reduce health and social inequalities and evaluating innovations in social policy and practice such as self-directed support and short breaks for families with a disabled child
  • Dr Paula Holland: the production of social inequalities in health; gender and social inequalities in the experience of illness; the impact of musculoskeletal disorders and other chronic illnesses on individuals' employment and financial circumstances; long-term sickness absence; return-to-work policies; and how employers manage workers with chronic illnesses
  • Professor Bruce Hollingsworth: quantitative measure meant of efficiency of the delivery of health systems, the economics of healthy behaviour and health economics in middle and low income scenarios
  • Dr Mark Limmer: adolescence and health related risk taking in particular in young men's health with a focus on sexual health, pornography and alcohol
  • Dr Elizabeth McDermott: mental health inequality especially in relation to age, sexuality, gender and social class
  • Professor Christine Milligan: active ageing; ageing and technology; place and care of older people; gender; social perspectives on dementia
  • Dr Aurora Ortiz-Nunez: applied econometrics, health economics, labour economics and economics of education
  • Professor Jennie Popay: the wider social determinants of health inequalities, community empowerment and the potential for experiential or 'lay' knowledge to inform policy and practice to reduce health inequalities
  • Dr Siobhan Reilly: identifying health inequalities and improving the evidence base for the delivery of health and social care services, in particular the role of primary care, case management and collaborative care for people with severe mental illness, people with dementia and older people with long term conditions
  • Dr Janet Robertson: health and wellbeing of people with intellectual disabilities
  • Dr Eugenio Zucchelli: applied microeconometrics, health economics and labour economics


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