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Improving our response to complex public health emergencies (HunterU16HPRU)

   School of Health Sciences

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  Prof P Hunter  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Complex emergencies were traditionally thought of as being emergencies that combine “internal conflict with large-scale displacements of people, mass famine or food shortage, and fragile or failing economic, political, and social institutions” i-ii. As such they were usually emergencies in low income countries. However, any crisis, including some events in the wealthy west, that overwhelms local health services or where multiple threats interact or where public response adds to the crisis, could be considered as a complex emergency.

The NIHR Health Protection Research Unit (HPRU) on Emergency Preparedness and Response is offering a PhD studentship to help increase understanding of such complex public health emergencies and how they could impact on the health of UK/European citizens. The HPRU is a 5 year collaboration between Public Health England and the Kings College London, University of East Anglia and Newcastle University.

Students from a wide range of backgrounds may be suitable for this studentship and including those with primary degrees in health sciences, applied mathematics, economics, social science or political science.

The aim of the studentship is to increase our understanding of the nature and evolution of complex emergencies in order to improve our ability to protect the public’s health. The student would be expected to collaborate with colleagues in Public Health England. The nature of the particular emergencies under investigation and the conceptual models and scientific approaches used would depend on the student’s skills and prior experience. Activities could include systematic reviews of the impact of past public health emergencies, field work in the UK or overseas to gather data on the nature and impact of the public health response, econometrics iii, mathematical modelling of disease transmission, risk assessment and game theory iv, policy analysis v or other suitable academic approaches.

Funding Notes

This PhD project is a Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences funded studentship. This studentship is funded for 3 years and comprises home/EU fees, an annual stipend of £14,057 and £1000 per annum to support research training. Applicants from outside the UK/EU are eligible to apply, but would need to make up the difference in fees themselves.


i) World Health Organization http://www.who.int/environmental_health_emergencies/complex_emergencies/en/

ii) Connolly MA, Gayer M, Ryan MJ, Salama P, Spiegel P & Heymann DL (2004) Communicable diseases in complex emergencies: impact and challenges. The Lancet, 364(9449), 1974-1983.

iii) Hammitt JK & Graham JD (1999) Willingness to Pay for Health Protection: Inadequate Sensitivity to Probability? J. Risk and Uncertainty, 18(1) 33-62.
iv) Bauch CT and Bhattacharyya S (2012) Evolutionary Game Theory and Social Learning Can Determine How Vaccine Scares Unfold, Plos Computational Biology.
v) Martuzzi M (2005) Science, Policy, and the Protection of Human Health: A European Perspective. Bioelectromagnetics, 7(S151-156).
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