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Optimising and embedding a community development approach in local systems to improve health and reduce inequalities

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Improving health and reducing health inequalities remain major global public health challenges. Increasing levels of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), mental health problems, rising levels of obesity and high rates of physical inactivity, unhealthy diets, smoking, and harmful alcohol consumption are placing increasing pressure on health services. These problems are compounded by the clustering of NCDs, mental health problems and health risk behaviours in the most disadvantaged groups. The social and geographical health inequities that exists in the UK have proved highly resistant to conventional top down individual behaviour change interventions. There is an urgent need to find effective approaches to prevention, particularly upstream interventions impacting on the wider determinants of health which can be embedded within local systems.

The ‘Well Communities’ programme provides a community focussed, co-produced approach to health improvement, for communities and local organisations (public, private and third sector) to work together to improve health and wellbeing, build resilience and reduce inequalities. The framework comprises a suite of capacity building and co-produced projects that realise and develop community assets and build individual and community trust, skills, knowledge, confidence, empowerment and connectedness. Research is required to optimise the programme and examine how to embed the approach within local systems.

The programme of work for this PhD studentship will review existing evidence and relevant theories, and analyse primary data to refine the programme. There will then be an opportunity to pilot embedding the refined programme within a local system to assess fidelity and acceptability to a range of different stakeholders. The student will have an opportunity to work within a larger team of researchers and have access to the data collected within other relevant ongoing projects (e.g. the Tower Hamlets Communities Driving Change programme and the Newham Improvement Academy)

Project-specific skills and experience required

Applicants should have a qualification in or experience gained within public health or community development research.
Applicants should have qualifications or experience in mixed-method research ideally within the design and evaluation of interventions.
All candidates should hold a Master’s qualification (or complete their Master’s by September 2019) in an appropriate discipline and have a minimum of a 2:1 or equivalent in their first degree. Applicants should preferably have knowledge of the UK health and care system. All applicants are required to have excellent written and verbal communication skills. They should also be willing to work collaboratively in multi-disciplinary and multi-professional team.


For general enquiries, please email:
For project specific queries, please contact: Professor Angela Harden:


Closing date: 05/01/2020;
Interviews: 22/01/2020
For applications and other information please visit our main NIHR ARC North Thames funded PhD studentships page:

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