The University of Stirling has appointed Professor Niamh Fitzgerald as Director of its globally-recognised Institute for Social Marketing and Health (ISMH).
The ISMH is the UK’s leading social marketing research centre with over 40 years of experience in the study of public health policy, behaviour change and commercial marketing. Its work is internationally recognised and has informed policy and legislation in the UK and worldwide.
Professor Fitzgerald, a Professor of Alcohol Policy, joined the Institute in 2014 and has led a number of major studies around alcohol-related harms, on topics such as the lowering of Scotland’s drink-drive limit, minimum unit pricing and public health involvement in local alcohol premises licensing.
Professor Judith Phillips, Deputy Principal (Research), said: “I am delighted to announce Professor Fitzgerald’s appointment as Director of the Institute for Social Marketing and Health.
“The Institute is internationally renowned for its innovative research which, for the past 40 years, has had a tangible impact on the lives of people across the UK and around the world. Under Professor Fitzgerald’s leadership, the Institute will continue to lead the way in tackling the effects of tobacco, alcohol, gambling and food marketing, informing policy and legislation, and ultimately improving the health of people across the globe.”
Professor Fitzgerald said: “It is an honour and privilege to be entrusted with leading ISMH into our fifth decade as we continue to conduct important public health research to shape policy and practice in the UK and internationally. I would like to pay tribute to my predecessors Professor Gerard Hastings, Professor Linda Bauld, and in particular, Professor Kate Hunt who generously stepped in as Acting Director in 2018.
“As the world continues to grapple with COVID-19, climate change and the rise of non-communicable diseases, our work is as relevant as ever. We are leading new studies of air quality, gambling behaviours and marketing, and the operation of bars and pubs after the COVID-19 lockdown, as well as continuing to conduct important work on tobacco and other major public health issues.
“We continue to collaborate with many stakeholders, including Scotland’s prisons and ambulance services, and colleagues globally, including in Malaysia, Malawi, Australia, Brazil and Peru.”
The ISMH – which celebrated its 40th anniversary earlier this year – conducts research in four key public health priorities: the impact of commercial marketing on health; the development and evaluation of behaviour change interventions based on social marketing principles; the impact of public policy on health and social welfare; and global health, including air quality and second hand-smoke.
Its research into the effects of tobacco and food marketing on children’s health has shaped the regulatory debate in the UK and overseas, laying the foundations for policies which have changed the face of marketing worldwide. Notably, in 2014, ISMH received a Queen’s Anniversary Prize – the UK’s highest academic honour – in recognition of its ground-breaking work.
The Institute is a partner in two major research collaborations: the SPECTRUM (Shaping Public Health Policies to Reduce Inequalities and Harm) Consortium funded by the UK Prevention Research Partnership, and the Public Health Policy Research Unit funded by the Department of Health.
Professor Fitzgerald specialises in mixed methods alcohol policy research and has led a number of major studies. Last year, she published a study that found that most pubs had adapted well to the lowering of the drink-drive limit in Scotland and another looking at how best to discuss alcohol consumption with pregnant women. She has previously worked on major reports into the impact of the drink-drive limit on traffic accidents and the potential harms arising from an industry-funded responsible drinking campaign in Ireland.
She is Deputy Director of the SPECTRUM Consortium, which is looking at how the marketing of alcohol, tobacco and unhealthy food and drink has a detrimental impact on health, and is also leading studies on ambulance call-outs to drug overdoses in Scotland and the impact of easing of COVID-19 restrictions on licensed premises.
In her new role, Professor Fitzgerald will continue to work alongside Martine Stead (Deputy Director) and Professor Hunt, Professor Michael Ussher, Dr Sean Semple and Aileen Paton, who make up the ISMH Senior Management Team.