I am a reader in public health nutrition at the University of Westminster. I originally trained in social anthropology and my work thus focuses on the social and policy aspects of nutrition, particularly socio-cultural factors influencing food use and dietary intake. I have worked in the UK and internationally in both research and consultancy. The latter includes work for public sector organizations including the UK Department for International Development (DfID), the Wellcome Trust, World Health Organization(WHO), American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA). I was a member of the project management panel that oversaw the FSA's large 2007 - 2009 study on consumer understanding of front-of-pack food labels that underpins current UK policy. I was also a member of the FSA Advisory Group 2009-2010 for their review of reviews to examine the effectiveness of dietary interventions and on the GAIN (Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition) advisory group to oversee the development of their Focused Ethnographic Survey approach. In 2010 I provided input to the UK Government Foresight Assessment The Future of Food and Farming. From 2011- 2018 I was a member of the FSA's Social Science Research Committee, one of the UK Government's Scientific Advisory Committees and remain on the FSA Register of Specialists.
My main areas of teaching are public health, anthropology/sociology of food and health, policy, research methods, and recently global public health and food systems.
I have over 20 years experience of teaching and supervision at post-graduate level at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and at Westminster University. At LSHTM I was the course director for the MSc in Public Health Nutrition. When I joined Westminster in 2001 I took the lead in setting up a new MSc in Public Health Nutrition, now the MSc Global Public Health Nutrition. I also now teach on the undergraduate nutrition programme. I teach at postgraduate level at other institutions (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University College London, Southampton University, City University, and the Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam).
In 2009 I was appointed as the external examiner to the MSc Public Health Nutrition at Southampton University and as external examiner at Warwick University for their MA in Applied Social Research in 2012. From 2015 I have been an external examiner at the Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam.
I have also been involved in the organization and delivery of a series of professional development workshops jointly convened by the Health Development Agency, British Dietetic Association, and Nutrition Society to enhance skills in qualitative research for nutritionists and dietitians. More recently I have become involved in nutrition capacity building for SUN (Scaling Up Nutrition, which is a major international initiative) and specifically the development of a new BSc and MSc in nutrition at the University of Zambia via The Tropical Health Educational Trust, funded by DfID. Finally the British Sociological Association Food Studies Group of which I am a member runs a series of professional workshops for early career researchers in food studies focusing on the use of qualitative research methods.
My research focuses on the interface between social science and public health nutrition, and within this the application of the theory and methods of social science to public health nutrition. Particular areas of interest are the evaluation of public health interventions; the use of participatory and qualitative methods in this; food safety and the social construction of risk. A new area of interest is food systems and their governance in light of the contemporary challenges, such as climate change and Brexit. On-going research includes the evaluation of a project in Tower Hamlets to address holiday hunger and further analyses of the UK Food Standards Agency's flagship survey Food and You with the The National Centre for Social Statistics.
Recent research activities
- 2014 -2016 a study examining public perceptions of and engagement with the UK food system, including how attitudes and trust in different stakeholders may have changed. This was funded by the ESRC and FSA as part of the research programme Understanding the challenges of the food system. The project was led by the National Centre for Social Statistics with collaborators at Cardiff University, Warwick University and 2008 myself at Westminster.
- 2008 - 2011 a cluster randomized controlled trial of the Well London community interventions to address social and structural determinants of physical, activity, diet and mental wellbeing. This was funded by the Wellcome Trust and the project was led by UEL and included research partners at LSTHM as well as UoW. Professor Angela Clow of SSHL and I have led a longitudinal qualitative study nested within the wider CRCT to illuminate causal pathways.
- A business survey to identify alternative control measures to control E.coli 0157 funded by the FSA 2013.
- 2009-2013 inputs on design and analysis to the FSA's new Food and You Survey waves I and II conducted by TNS.
- From April 2009 - April 2011 I was part of a consortium led by Professor Richard Watt, Dept of Epidemiology, UCL and funded by the FSA that developed and implemented a trial of a family-centred intervention delivered in Children's Centres and the home environment. This was conducted in two sites (London and Cornwall).
- Member of ObaapaVitA Trial Steering Committee as USAID representative from 2005-2009. The ObaapaVitA was CRCTs is co-funded by USAID and DfID is designed to examine the effect of low dose vitamin A supplements on maternal mortality in Northern Ghana. The findings were recently released.
- 2007 conducted a critical review of the role of community participation in enhancing the uptake and sustainability of child survival packages in low income countries for A2Z, Washington (the micronutrient and child blindness project of the United States Agency for International Development).
- 2007 with Jessica Swann evaluation of a community-based salt reduction intervention implemented by the London Food Commission and funded by the FSA.
- 2005 with Andrew Hall co-ordinated three international projects (Ghana, Nepal, Uganda) looking at the role of women health care providers and funded by International Life Sciences institute, Washington
- Technical Advisor to a project investigating access of health and personal social services by lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Northwest Ireland being conducted by the Public Health Department, North Western Health Board in 2004
- 2002- 2004 FSA-funded project Methods to access consumer views on food policy issues: an evaluation of their viability and efficacy for inclusive participation in policy making. This two year project was conducted in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the University of Surrey at Roehampton.
Past work has included research on infant feeding practices, street foods in developing countries, traditional food technologies and complementary feeding, micronutrient deficiencies, health seeking behaviours, inland capture fisheries, vegetarianism, and the social construction of risk in relation to food safety.
The key transferable skills used in my research are qualitative research methods as applied across a range of public health nutrition issues.
For details of all my research outputs, visit my WestminsterResearch profile.