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MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit - Inequalities in Health programme

MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit - Inequalities in Health programme

Our Inequalities in Health programme improves methods for analysing routinely collected health data and population-based studies. The programme uses novel linkages to social data to improve our understanding of inequalities in health and to improve intervention strategies. For studentship topics available in this programme, see below. For studentship opportunities in other research programmes, visit our website.

Please note that topics are indicative. Student-led applications/topics relevant to the Unit and Programmes (i.e. on related topics with different supervisors) are also very welcome.

Where do people age most successfully and why?

Lead supervisor: Dr Elise Whitley
As populations age there is increasing interest in making this a positive experience where people avoid/manage diseases, are socially integrated, and function well physically and mentally. However people’s ageing experience varies according to their socioeconomic status and country. This PhD will explore existing knowledge in developed countries around what socioeconomic factors drive these differences. This will inform quantitative analyses of international datasets to assess variation in aging between socioeconomic groups and countries. Differences will be further explored in terms of individual circumstances, e.g. health behaviours, and national characteristics, e.g. pension policies, to discover what socioeconomic factors drive them.

Understanding and resolving divergences in childhood obesity and overweight data and social patterning

Lead supervisor: Dr Linsay Gray
Data from Scotland indicate that childhood obesity prevalence levels are at an all-time high. Effective formulation and evaluation of action require reliable and consistent data sources and an understanding of what drives obesity and overweight. A key factor impacting on risk of obesity/overweight is socioeconomic status. Data from the Scottish Health Survey indicate narrowing of the socioeconomic inequality gap in childhood overweight/obesity, however, data collected over time on Scottish school Primary 1 pupils indicate the opposite. This PhD will explore the explanations for and find solutions to this divergence through record linkage to administrative sources.

The changing transition to adulthood and implications for inequalities in health behaviour trajectories

Lead supervisor: Dr Mike Green
The transition to adulthood has changed over the past few decades, with young adults staying longer in education and delaying labour market entry and family formation, but there are still inequalities in transitional experiences. This transition is an important life-stage for establishment of health behaviour trajectories that last into adulthood, and inequalities in transitions may lead to long-term inequalities in health behaviours. The candidate will engage with advanced quantitative methods using data from historical UK cohorts to examine impacts of transitional change on health behaviour trajectories and estimate where interventions or policies could have beneficial impacts.

The health of care experienced children in Scotland

Lead supervisor: Dr Denise Brown
Care experienced children (CEC) are at risk of poorer educational outcomes and reduced life chances but little is known in Scotland about their health. This project will examine how the health of CEC compares to children in the general population. Anonymised individual level data on all school-age children in Scotland (n ≈ 600,000) have been linked to health and socio-economic data. Strong numerical skills will be required in the management and analysis of this large dataset. Findings may help reduce inequalities in health in Scotland and will help deliver better outcomes for CEC.

How to apply

Candidates are required to prepare a two A4 page research proposal. Please contact the supervisor of your proposed topic to discuss your proposal prior to submission.

Applications should be submitted to Postgraduate Admissions. Please ensure you apply to MVLS - MRC/CSO PhD Studentship.

The full set of supporting documents that are required to be uploaded at the point of application can be found here

  • CV/Resume
  • Degree certificate (if you have graduated prior to 1 July 2015)
  • Passport
  • Two A4 page research proposal (This should have been discussed with the Programme Leader/supervisor prior to submission).
  • Reference 1 (a full reference should be submitted from an academic who has a knowledge of your academic ability from your most recent study/programme)
  • Reference 2 (a full reference should be submitted from an academic who has a knowledge of your academic ability)
  • Transcripts

Full eligibility criteria is available here.

Once you have submitted your application, please email [email protected] to confirm. General enquiries regarding the application process can also be directed to this email address.

Closing Date: 24 February 2020
Interviews: 21 and 23 April 2020


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