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Creating just, healthy cities: challenging inequalities in health deprivation from air pollution in minority communities


   Doctoral College

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  Dr K Wyche, Dr Emmanuel Aboagye-Nimo, Dr Kirsty Smallbone  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Summary: This PhD project will explore social problems related to air pollution, inequality and health, and emerging linkages to socioeconomic status, ethnicity and health and welfare policies. The project will adopt an innovative mixed methods approach combining advanced analysis of existing data with in depth interviews with community members and health practitioners.

Rationale: The global pandemic resulted in early recognition of an ethnic disparity in vulnerability to contracting diseases such as COVID-19, and the severity of its outcomes. Bio-culturally, this inter-population variation in susceptibility relates to more than biology or genes. It has been recognised that socio-economic and structural differences underlying society have led to health disparities. Life conditions e.g. behaviour, co-morbidity and socio-economic factors related to neighbourhood, employment and housing status, are all factors that have influenced structural and socio-economic inequalities to COVID-19. Such health inequalities also apply to impacts of air pollution, which is arguably the single biggest threat facing global society. It is responsible for 8-million death per year, with the most deprived areas of society having greatest levels of exposure to pollution, despite contributing least to emissions. Consequently, there is a link between socioeconomic deprivation, housing, ethnicity, air pollution exposure and negative impacts on health. Health and social policy professionals must address risks and impacts of illness caused by air pollution and they must do so in a way that promotes social equity by accounting for differences between social groups. Unfortunately, there is a major research gap that makes this difficult, in that emerging evidence suggests exposure to, and health effects of air pollution appear to differ by socio-economic status and ethnicity, but for example, differences between different BAME groups remain poorly understood. Also, little is known about how health and social policy professionals advise different minority ethnic communities about risks specific to those communities, if indeed they do; certainly, there is no differentiation made between how BAME and white populations are treated homogeneously in air quality and transport policy. This PhD aims to address this research gap using quantitative and qualitative techniques to understand current advice offered to low income and BAME communities about air pollution risks and how they might need to adjust behaviours and lifestyles.

Methods: This project takes a mixed-methods approach. Advanced quantitative data analyses will be employed to interrogate ESRC Understanding Society data sets since 2009 when the ethnicity boost samples were introduced, and relate these findings to UK Government air quality, epidemiological and demographic data sets, including DEFRA UK-Air air pollution statistics; NHS England deprivation score and respiratory morbidity and mortality statistics (preventable and non-preventable); HDRUK /ONS COVID-19 data, and Personal and Household Finance, Housing, and Cultural Identity data. The analysis will employ Geographical Information Systems and a range of statistical decompositional and dimension reduction techniques. This information will then be used to devise key questions for in-depth interviews with senior health/environment/transport policy makers, and focus groups with stakeholders and practitioners to explore perceptions and understanding of relationships between air pollution and health inequalities amongst health practitioners, and also between and within the different minority communities. The knowledge gained will be used to develop best practice and solutions, including a health policy toolkit to increase knowledge of socio-economic health inequalities related to air pollution for practitioners and stakeholders.


Funding Notes

The studentship is for 3 years and consists of a full stipend, tuition fees and a travel bursary for participation by the students and supervisors in cohort building and training events related to the DTA Future Societies network programme.
Anticipated start date is 01 October 2021.
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