Population and Public Health Research Group

We undertake public health research and we shape policies that improve the health of populations and reduces health inequalities.

Our work is recognised as having a major impact on public health policy and practice, both in Scotland and across the world.

Research Programmes

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To achieve our aim of producing policy and practice-relevant population and public health research we have five programmes of research. The group is led by Professor Sally Haw, supported by a number of staff and students, with group members typically working across these programmes, often on specific themes within the larger programme of work.

  1. Public Health Policy Evaluation. The main research in this programme is currently around tobacco control. This includes researching tobacco displays and marketing (and the associated bans put on these displays in places like Scotland), researching the marketing of nicotine replacement therapies and research into the use and health effects of e-cigarettes.
  2. Social and Economic Determinants of Health and Health Inequalities. Research in this programme focuses on occupational and environmental health, the social-to-biological transition and health inequality policy and practice.
  3. Applied Epidemiology for Public Health. Research themes and projects in this programme are around using epidemiological methods and quantitative data to better understand disease risk, development, screening and treatment for diseases such as tuberculosis, breast cancer and liver disease. 
  4. Diabetes Prevention and Management. The programme focuses supporting self-management and on the development of interventions in high risk groups, for example, those with impaired glucose regulation, family members of those with diabetes and women with or at higher risk of gestational diabetes.
  5. Health Behaviour Change. Research interests span various health behaviours, but there is a keen interest in physical activity for health. Often work in this programme focuses on so-called ‘hard-to-reach’ groups, the co-production of health interventions and workplace interventions.

Our research cuts across the University’s three research themes: Health and Behaviour; Global Security and Resilience; and Cultures, Communities and Society. To this end we collaborate with colleagues throughout the University, including contributing to many of the University’s interdisciplinary research programmes which look to address global challenges. In addition we have numerous active collaborations with national and international partners in research, policy and practice.

mature student with laptop


Within the group, we have a number of core staff (listed below). We also work closely with colleagues across the Faculty and the University. This includes contributing to many of the University’s interdisciplinary research programmes which look to address global challenges.

Dr Purva Abhyankar – Lecturer in Health Sciences, with expertise in Psychological Approaches to Health and Health Services Research. Her work focuses on a) enabling patient involvement in decisions about their healthcare, b) health behaviour change and self-management support, and c) implementation and evaluation of complex health interventions. A mixed-methods researcher, with a focus on theoretically driven research.

Dr Federico Andreis, Lecturer in Statistics. His current research interest is around cancer screening compliance, with a focus on breast cancer. He is also working on geostatistical modelling of open access drugs prescription data.

Dr Dawn Cameron, Lecturer in Health Sciences. Her work focuses on the diabetes, in particular self-monitoring of blood glucose and the prevention of diabetes related complications. 

Dr Jenni Connelly is a Lecturer in Physical Activity for Health. Her research interests and current projects focus around physical activity promotion in hard to reach populations. 

Claire Eades, Lecturer in Health Sciences, focuses on the prevention of type 2 diabetes, particularly in high risk groups such as women with gestational diabetes and people with prediabetes.

Dr Josie Evans, Associate Professor in Public Health, works on the epidemiology of type 2 diabetes. She is also interested in developing behaviour change interventions among people at high risk of diabetes: women who have had gestational diabetes, people diagnosed with impaired glucose regulation, and the relatives of people newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. She is also working on interventions to increase physical activity in novel settings and groups, including the workplace, undergraduate nursing students, and women who play Bingo.

Professor Sally Haw, Professor of Public Health, works on the evaluation of public health policy (in particular tobacco control) and the development and the evaluation of complex interventions.  She is also interested in the development and application of ecological models of public health to tackle problems associated with vulnerable young adults and homelessness and child neglect. 

Dr Tony Robertson is a Lecturer in Social Epidemiology and Public Health and his work focuses on trying to better understand the mechanisms linking our socioeconomic circumstances (e.g. education, employment, housing) and our health across the life course to help reduce health inequalities.

Dr Gemma Ryde is a Post-Doctoral Impact Research Fellow and her work focuses on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and health, particularly in the workplace context.

Professor Andrew Watterson’s work focuses on health impact assessments across a range of sectors, as well as public engagement and participatory action research with communities and workers. Other major interests include occupational and environmental disease recognition and the science, policy/ civil society interface.

For further information about studying for a PhD or Clinical Doctorate in the Faculty, please visit our dedicated webpage. Some current doctorate projects supervised by group members include:

  • Prevention of Type II diabetes in high-risk groups
  • Brief interventions for impaired glucose regulation and gestational diabetes
  • Mental health, wellbeing and lifestyles in island communities
  • The impact and feasibility of exercise specialist located with general practice
  • Health implications of loneliness


Below you will find some recent publications produced by the group. We will periodically add new grant funding/publications to this section.

Background: This study examines whether young never smokers in Scotland, UK, who have tried an e-cigarette are more likely than those who have not, to try a cigarette during the following year.

Read the full paper: Relationship between trying an electronic cigarette and subsequent cigarette experimentation

Aims: Estimates of the prevalence of gestational diabetes vary widely. It is important to have a clear understanding of the prevalence of this condition to be able to plan interventions and health care provision. This paper describes a meta-analysis of primary research data reporting the prevalence of gestational diabetes mellitus in the general pregnant population of developed countries in Europe.

Read the full paper: Prevalence of gestational diabetes mellitus in Europe: A meta-analysis

Background: Evaluation of the potential effectiveness of a programme’s objectives (health or otherwise) is important in demonstrating how programmes work. However, evaluations are expensive and can focus on unrealistic outcomes not grounded in strong theory, especially where there is pressure to show effectiveness. The aim of this research was to demonstrate that the evaluability assessment (a cost-effective pre-evaluation tool that primarily gives quick, constructive feedback) can be used to help develop programme and outcome objectives to improve programmes while they run and to assist in producing more effective evaluations. This was done using the example of a community development programme aiming to improve health and reduce health inequalities in its target population.

Read the full paper: Using evaluability assessment to assess local community development health programmes

Abstract: The evidence on public health regulation of the unconventional gas extraction (fracking) industry was examined using a rapid evidence assessment of fifteen case studies from multiple countries. They included scientific and academic papers, professional reports, government agency reports, industry and industry-funded reports, and a nongovernment organization report. Each case study review was structured to address strengths and weaknesses of the publication in relation to our research questions. Some case studies emphasized inherent industry short-, medium-, and long-term dangers to public health directly and through global climate change impacts. Other case studies argued that fracking could be conducted safely assuming industry best practice, “robust” regulation, and mitigation, but the evidence base for such statements proved generally sparse. U.K. regulators’ own assessments on fracking regulation are also evaluated. The existing evidence points to the necessity of a precautionary approach to protect public health from unconventional gas extraction development.

Read the full paper: A Rapid Evidence Assessment of Fracking for Shale Gas, Regulation, and Public Health

Background: Our aim was to use participatory methods to investigate the feasibility and acceptability of using Bingo clubs for the design and delivery of an evidence-based physical activity and/or healthy eating intervention to socio-economically disadvantaged women. This paper describes the participatory process that has resulted in a physical activity intervention for women aged >55 years, ready for pilot-testing in a Bingo club setting.

Read the full paper: Accessing and engaging women from socio-economically disadvantaged areas