Institute for Social Marketing and Health

The Institute for Social Marketing and Health (ISMH) is a world-leading centre for research in marketing, behaviour change and public policy with over 40 years’ experience of research leading to improvements in population health and wellbeing. 

ISMH conducts research in main three areas, leading on ‘Determinants of Living Well’ research at the University of Stirling, through our work on commercial marketing and public policy. Our work on behaviour change interventions also supports the wider University of Stirling focus on ‘Supporting Living Well’ in a wide variety of populations and settings (prisons, homes, fathers, homeless populations etc.).

Our three main areas of focus are:

  • analysis of the impact of commercial marketing (pricing, availability, promotion, products), and consumption, of unhealthy commodities on the health and behaviour of people, families, communities and wider society;
  • evaluating the impact (or potential impact) of public policy on health and wellbeing, public services and inequalities;
  • the development and evaluation of culturally-sensitised behaviour change interventions to improve health and wellbeing informed by social marketing and other relevant evidence.

We are also conducting world-leading studies of the impact of COVID-19 on health and society, and how best to mitigate risks and harms arising.

ISMH initially built its reputation during the 1980s and 1990s as the Advertising Research Unit and later the Centre for Social Marketing. Our reputation has grown nationally and internationally whilst at the University of Stirling, as evidenced by the award of the prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher Education in 2014. This was awarded in recognition of ISMH’s research on health and the effectiveness of policies designed to protect health by controlling marketing.

Research collaborations

Whilst the majority of ISMH’s research is led by us at Stirling, we are also a partner in two major research collaborations:

SPECTRUM Consortium

ISMH Director, Professor Niamh Fitzgerald, is a Deputy Director of the SPECTRUM Consortium (Shaping public health policies to reduce inequalities and harm) funded from 2019-2024 by the UK Prevention Research Partnership. Led by the University of Edinburgh, SPECTRUM aims to generate new evidence to inform the prevention of NCDs caused by unhealthy commodities and to transform policy and practice to encourage the adoption of healthy environments and behaviours. SPECTRUM brings together 11 Universities in the UK and one in Australia, leading alliances that aim to improve health and reduce inequalities in the UK and further afield, along with Public Health England, Public Health Scotland and Public Health Wales, and others. SPECTRUM builds on previous consortia in which Stirling also played a leading role including the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies.

Public Health Policy Research Unit

Associate Professor, Allison Ford, is Co-investigator and member of the Strategic Oversight Group of the Public Health Policy Research Unit (2019-2024) funded by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). The NIHR Public Health PRU (PH-PRU) was established with the aim of meeting DHSC needs for timely, relevant and robust public health evidence. Its research is delivered within four broad themes: Understanding what determines people’s physical and mental health, and health behaviours; identifying, developing and evaluating effective and cost effective PH interventions; generating evidence to inform strategies to reduce inequalities in health; and developing new theory and methods, and new ways to apply them to public health challenges.