Professor Sheila Greenfield BSc, MA, PhD

Institute of Applied Health Research
Professor of Medical Sociology

Contact details

Institute of Applied Health Research
College of Medical and Dental Sciences
Murray Learning Centre
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Sheila Greenfield is Professor of Medical Sociology in the Institute of Applied Health Research.  She teaches medical sociology on the MBChB  5 year and 4 year Graduate Entry programmes and leads a Complementary and Alternative Medicine experience morning for MBChB Year 1 students.  She is a qualitative methodologist and her research is focussed on two main areas; the design and implementation of qualitative methodology as a component of mixed methods research; the methods people use to self-manage their health either for health promotion and prevention or for the management of diagnosed medical conditions.


Sheila Greenfield qualified with a BSc (Hons) in French and Sociology from the University of Aston in 1978. She went on to study for an MA (Birmingham) and PhD (Aston) in comparative sociology before joining the Department of General Practice at the University of Birmingham in 1983. Sheila has continued to work in Birmingham leading the introduction and development of Medicine in Society teaching within the MBChB programme of the College of Medical and Dental Sciences and qualitative methods education and applied research within the Institute of Applied Health Research.

Sheila has published extensively in her area of particular interest, patient self-management, with a particular focus on the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) by patients with chronic conditions as part of their self-management. She has been an invited speaker on CAM at both national (Foundation for Integrated Medicine, Blackie Foundation) and local level (Birmingham Science Museum’s Birmingham Cafe Scientifique) and reviews articles on CAM for a wide range of journals.


Teaching Programmes

Postgraduate supervision

Sheila is interested in supervising doctoral research students in the following areas:

  • Lay health beliefs
  • Complementary and alternative medicine
  • Beliefs and behaviours related to medicine taking
  • Research using qualitative methodology

If you are interesting in studying any of these subject areas please contact Sheila on the contact details above.



Lay health beliefs; the use of self-management for prevention, health maintenance and the management of chronic disease; complementary and alternative medicine, medicine taking; qualitative methodology.

Mixed methods Research on chronic disease

Sheila currently leads the qualitative component of large mixed methods studies focussing on hypertension, diabetes, vasculitis and COPD.

Lay health beliefs and behaviours

Her work has focussed on lay understanding of symptoms and the methods people use to self-manage their health. Areas studied have included use of complementary and alternative medicine, in particular homeopathy, hypnosis and herbal medicine, home self-testing kits, attitudes to prescribed and over-the-counter medicines and how people integrate orthodox treatment and self-care.

Current studies

  • COPD in primary Care: from case finding to improving patient outcomes (funded by NIHR)
  •  Supporting adult patients with Type 1 Diabetes (T1DM) to undertake exercise; Developing and piloting an education programme on exercise and Type 1 diabetes. (funded by NIHR Research for Patient Benefit Programme)

  • Prenatal Assessment of Genomes and Exomes (PAGE) Study: (funded by Department of Health, Wellcome Trust, Health Innovation Challenge Fund)

  •  Optimising the monitoring and management of raised blood pressure during and after pregnancy (funded by NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Research)

  • Feasibility Study-treatment of fatigue with physical activity and behavioural change support in vasculitis. (funded by  Arthritis Research UK)

  • Negotiating the tensions in everyday risk work: a workforce development tool for health and social care (funded by ESRC Impact Acceleration Account Follow-on Fund)


Gale NK, Thomas GM, Thwaites R, Greenfield S, Brown P. Towards a sociology of risk work: a narrative review and synthesis. Sociology Compass 2016, 10,11: 1046–1071,

Nicola K, Litchfield I, Gale N, Burrows M, Greenfield S. A protocol for using mixed methods and process improvement methodologies to explore primary care receptionist work. BMJ Open. 2016 Nov 16;6(11):e013240. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-013240.

Apenteng P, Fitzmaurice D, Litchfield I, Harrison S, Heneghan C, Ward A,  Greenfield S*.  "Patients’ perceptions and experiences of the prevention of hospital acquired thrombosis: a qualitative study" BMJ Open. 2016 Dec 13;6(12):e013839. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-013839.

Tompson AC, Fleming S, Heneghan CJ, McManus RJ, Greenfield SM, Hobbs FDR, Ward AM. Blood Pressure Self-Screening: A mixed methods study of current and potential providers in Oxfordshire.  BMJ Open 2017;7:e013938. doi:10.1136/

Kosteli MC, Heneghan NR, Roskell C, Williams SE, Adab P, Dickens AP, Enocson A, Fitzmaurice DA, Jolly K, Jordan R, Greenfield S, Cumming J.Barriers and enablers of physical activity engagement for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in primary care International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 2017:12 1019–1031

Gale N, Dowswell G, Greenfield S, Marshall T.  Street-level diplomacy? Communicative and adaptive work at the front line of implementing public health policies in primary care. Soc Sci Med. 2017 Jan 24;177:9-18. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2017.01.046. [Epub ahead of print]

Tompson AC, Grant S, Greenfield SM, McManus RJ, Fleming S, Heneghan CJ, Hobbs FR, Ward AM. Patient use of blood pressure self-screening facilities in general practice waiting rooms: a qualitative study in the UK. Br J Gen Pract. 2017 May 8. pii: bjgp17X690881. doi: 10.3399/bjgp17X69088

Neilson S, Gibson F, Jeffares S, Greenfield SM. GPs and paediatric oncology palliative care: A Q Methodological study BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care 2017 Apr 21. pii: bmjspcare-2015-000852. doi: 10.1136/bmjspcare-2015-00085

Krouwel M, Jolly K, Greenfield S. What the public think about hypnosis and hypnotherapy: A narrative review of literature covering opinions and attitudes of the general public 1996–2016. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 2017, 32:75-84

Schwartz CL, Clark C, Koshiaris C, Gill PS, Greenfield SM, Haque SM, Heer G, Johal A, Kaur R, Mant J, Martin U, Mohammed MA, Wood S, McManus RJ. Interarm Difference in Systolic Blood Pressure in Different Ethnic Groups and Relationship to the “White Coat Effect”:A Cross-Sectional Study. American Journal of Hypertension 2017, doi: 10.1093/ajh/hpx073.


Complementary and alternative medicine

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