Public Health and Communities


The Public Health and Communities Research Unit, incorporating food, weight and physical activity, grew from recognition of this expanding area of research within CRIPACC's portfolio. The Unit's strength is the way it uses social science methodologies and theories in relation to public health communities.

The Research Unit is organised through a multidisciplinary team led by Dr Gill Craig, Reader Public Health & Social Science.

Dr Gill CraigReader Public Health and Social
Professor Wendy WillsProfessor of Food and Public
Dr Angela DickinsonSenior Research Fellow (Older People's Health)
Dr Sam RogersResearch
Dr Eva Brown HajdukovaResearch
Dr Sam MurrrayResearch
Dr Cynthia OchiengResearch Fellow 

Areas of research

The next 5 years will build on existing research interests that have a good fit with national and international policy priorities. Key thematic areas include:

  • the social determinants of food and eating practices
  • patient/public safety in relation to food
  • perceptions and experiences of obesity and weight management
  • nutrition information and interventions for patients, health professionals and consumers

Understanding the social determinants of food and eating practices underpins the research activity of the Unit and drives forward the priorities for the Unit. The influence of space and place is likely to grow in importance, based on recent work we've undertaken.

Ensuring food in this country is safe to eat and reducing the burden of food-borne illness are major policy issues and this will continue to drive initiatives well beyond the next 5 years. This relates to the safety of people living in care homes, patients in hospital and people preparing and eating food in their own homes. Social science and public health have a significant role to play in research in this field and the Unit aims to be at the forefront of this area.

Over the next five years, obesity and weight management will continue to be policy concerns, particularly with regard to children and young people. Our work in this area cross-cuts with that of the Adolescent and Child Health Research Unit in CRIPACC as well as benefiting from the multi-disciplinary expertise within the Weight and Obesity Research Group (WORG) – a cross-university strategic group convened by the Research Unit.

The provision of nutrition information is an under-researched area where the Unit is currently building its expertise through small funded projects and doctoral-level work. Researching how to communicate nutrition messages to patients, health professionals and consumers will be a key objective over the next 5 years. This sits alongside the need to develop effective nutrition-related interventions, which build on a broad evidence base.

Current PhD projects:

Dawn Lukk: Socio-cultural factors influencing maternal nutrition in Arab Muslim women (Supervisors: W Wills and A Dickinson

Qurrat Ul Ain: Exploration of hypertensive patients and health care professionals perspective about delivery of lifestyle recommendation information in Pakistan (Supervisors: W Wills and A Dickinson)

Surinder Phull: The role of conviviality in the Mediterranean Diet Model (Supervisors: W. Wills and A. Dickinson)

Jane McClinchy: The effectiveness of nutrition information for patients with type 2 diabetes (Supervisors: A. Dickinson and W. Wills)

Get involved

The Unit convenes FOODNet – a network for research, policy, public and practice stakeholders in Hertfordshire and the surrounding region. To join the mailing list please contact Professor Wendy Wills at