Public health and health inequalities

Our researchers are committed to combatting health inequalities and championing health promotion and protection to invest in the nation's health and wellbeing.

Public health, or ‘population health’, generally refers to interventions or policies that impact on the health of the public (or a specific population) rather than individual treatments for people with established disease.

Our academic community works collaboratively with researchers from other disciplines, members of the public as well as policy and service delivery stakeholders to address key health challenges, monitor the impact of research on health inequalities, and inform activities that improve the health of people in our region, nationally and worldwide:

  • Obesity prevention – Our research, including cluster-randomised controlled trials such as the WAVES study and 'Daily Mile' evaluation study, as well as intervention adaptation and evaluation (e.g. CHANGE study, Healthy Dads Healthy Kids) and policy evaluation research (e.g. FUEL study) are informing national policy, as well as the development of new research both in the UK and internationally. 
  • Air quality – Modelling outputs from the West Midlands Air Quality Improvement Programme have informed regional transport and climate policy, including the Birmingham Clean Air Zone.
  • Mental health – Our research is improving the care and outcomes of those with poor mental health, as well as transforming the way services and public policy view and treat mental health.
  • Health data – We are collating, linking and using routinely available electronic health and social care data to understand factors that influence health at an individual and population level. We are using this information to inform clinical decision-making and healthcare policy.
  • Maternal health – Through the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration West Midlands we work with local maternity Trusts to reduce inequalities and improve population health approaches, one of the highlights being the implementation of the Birmingham Symptom specific Obstetric Triage System across the UK. 

Researchers from across the University are also leading projects to break down health inequalities, removing avoidable, unfair and systematic differences in health and wellbeing between different groups of people. Examples of our current and completed research projects include:

  • Working with the Third Sector Research Centre at the University of Birmingham and leading on the 'below the radar' work stream that is researching the experiences of small community-based groups and activities.
  • The Impact of Ethnic Diversity on Wellbeing and Health, studying how ethnic diversity impacts people’s wellbeing and health.
  • Exploring the relationship between ethnic heterogeneity, intergroup relations and stress, including the investigation of whether ethnic diversity of local areas is associated with higher or lower levels of stress.
  • Legal and mental capacity in everyday life – Interrogating how socio-legal understandings of ‘legal’ and ‘mental’ capacity interact in the everyday lives of people with intellectual disabilities, and has contributed to emerging reform to the support provided in everyday legally-relevant decision making.
  • Reforming abortion law – ‘Repealing the 8th’, co-authored by Professor Fiona de Londras and Máiréad Enright, offers practical proposals for policymakers and reform advocates, including model legislation, and was used as a campaigning tool ahead of the May 2018 referendum in the Republic of Ireland.

"The COVID-19 pandemic and the related control measures have sharpened the focus on public health, highlighted widening health inequalities and emphasised the importance of better investment in and strengthening the public health system.

"Now more than ever is a time to focus on carrying out research that promotes better population health. In particular, we need to focus on reducing differences between the health of different groups, and inform the development of policies that promote wellbeing and reduce disease in people of all ages."

Professor Peymané Adab

Professor Peymané Adab

Professor of Chronic Disease Epidemiology and Public Health

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