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Geographies of Health Reading Group

Geographies of healthIn the Geographies of Health Reading Group, a wide variety of topics concerning health and wellbeing is addressed. Specific attention is paid to the relation between health and place. Starting from one or two articles suggested by one of the group members, the reading group offers the opportunity to openly exchange thoughts on the session’s topic.

Everyone with an interest in health and medical geography, public health and related disciplines is very welcome to join.

We meet every second Friday during term time, 1pm-2pm. Exceptions to these timings are indicated where relevant.

Location: Campop library (William Hardy Building) and/or online

  • Emma Diduch

Academic year 2022-2023

Session 7: May 19th 2023

Fertility: Long-Term Trends and Short-Term Shocks

Studies of historical fertility declines have important implications for modern development studies. Current literature emphasizes the relative status and empowerment of women in a society and increased health and investment in children – whether these generalizations hold true for all countries in all times is a point of continuing debate. But what about fertility in the short term, particularly in the context of a crisis like a depression or pandemic? Studying fertility responses to short term shocks offers the opportunity to test the strength of causal relationships in a natural experiment framework, while also offering insight into the potential role of extraordinary factors in determining individual responses to economic or health crises. The first article from Our World In Data offers a summary of long-term worldwide trends in fertility and interactive data visualizations. The second article on fertility patterns in Sweden during and after the Spanish Flu offers interesting insight into possible parallels with the covid-19 pandemic by assessing both short- and long-term effects.

Suggested readings:

  • Max Roser (2014) – “Fertility Rate”. (interactive)
  • Boberg-Fazlic, N., Ivets, M., Karlsson, M. and Nilsson, T., 2021. Disease and fertility: Evidence from the 1918–19 influenza pandemic in Sweden. Economics & Human Biology, 43, p.101020.

Proposed by Emma Diduch.

Session 6: May 5th 2023

Vaccine uptake and socioeconomic class

This session will focus on how socioeconomic class impacts vaccine uptake. Specifically, we will look at two papers which detail differences in vaccine uptake amongst children during very different time periods; the 1960s and the present day post Covid-19 era. The first paper by Gray et al. (1966) explores how class impacted polio vaccination uptake in the 1960s due to alleged differing values and norms of mothers. The second paper by Glassman and Szymczak (2022) also focuses on vaccine hesitant mothers, and explores how a distrust in authorities may be influencing working-class mothers to not vaccinate their children. These papers raise questions around the root causes of vaccine hesitancy in addition to how these beliefs have developed over the decades alongside political, economic and social changes.

Suggested readings:

  • Gray, R.M., Kesler, J.P. and Moody, P.M., 1966. The effects of social class and friends’ expectations on oral polio vaccination participation. American Journal of Public Health and the Nations Health, 56(12), pp.2028-2032.
  • Glassman, L.W. and Szymczak, J.E., 2022. The influence of social class and institutional relationships on the experiences of vaccine-hesitant mothers: a qualitative study. BMC Public Health, 22(1), pp.1-9.

Proposed by Holly Stevens.

Session 5: April 24th 2023

Good health at low cost

In 1975, Samuel Preston published his seminal paper titled ‘The Changing Relation between Mortality and Level of Economic development.” The paper presented the Preston curve, the log-linear curve explaining how at lower levels of economic development, relatively small increases in income increase life expectancy to a greater extent than at higher levels of development. Preston also noted how the curve has shifted upwards over time, indicating the importance of factors beyond income in the general improvement of health over the 20th century. Ever since its publication, academics and policy makers have continued to study this relationship between health and wealth as set out by Preston. This session hopes to delve into the discussion, aided by two papers: the first, by Bloom and Canning provides a good overview of the topic, outlining both Preston’s original theory and the discussions and academic papers it’s sparked in the decades since 1975. The second paper, by Freeman et al., elaborates on the theory by focusing on outliers, discussing the various factors behind countries ‘punching above or below their weight’ in terms of life expectancy and relative income.

Suggested readings:

  • Bloom, David E. and Canning, David (2007). ‘Commentary: The Preston Curve 30 years on: still sparking fires.’ International Journal of Epidemiology 2007 vol. 36, 498–499. doi:10.1093/ije/dym079.
  • Freeman et al. (2020). Why do some countries do better or worse in life expectancy relative to income? An analysis of Brazil, Ethiopia, and the United States of America.’ International Journal for Equity in Health 2020, vol.19 (202), 1-19.

Proposed by Elisabeth Mjaaland.

Session 4: February 17th 2023

Climate change and geographies of health

Geographies of health are often connected to injustice and unequal access to health care which has emerged over centuries. More recently, however, climate change has exacerbated these differences. The topic for this week, therefore, is to discuss how our various research topics and knowledge may help navigate these changing geographies of health.

The paper by Curtis and Oven provides an introduction to the topic, an overview of our current knowledge and previous debates on this topic. They especially highlight the importance of interdisciplinary knowledge in solving the increasing health disparities caused by climate change.

The second paper is a newspaper article by William G. Moseley. It discusses the famine on the Horn of Africa and its effects, but importantly also how it happened. Whilst the famine has typically been attributed to climate change, Moseley highlights the political, social and economic context that ‘allowed’ it to happen. Together, the two papers highlight how humans influence geographies of health through a plethora of pathways, through both man-made climate change, but also through socio-economic and political factors working.

Suggested readings:

Proposed by Elisabeth Mjaaland.

Session 3: 25th November 2022

Cancelled due to Industrial Action

Session 2: 11th November 2022

Air pollution and mental health

This session will discuss the possible relationship between air pollution and mental health. Recent studies have suggested that there may indeed be a link between high levels of air pollution and poor mental health and wellbeing. This is a rapidly developing area of research that aims to investigate how exposure to pollution may affect the brain and potentially exacerbate mental health conditions. Such work is particularly interesting as almost the entire global population (99%) breathes air that exceeds WHO air quality limits, therefore billions are affected by air pollution to some extent (WHO, 2022).

The first paper, by Buoli et al. (2018), provides a general overview of the mental disorders thought to be exacerbated by air pollution. The second and third papers by Chen et al. (2018) and Petrowski et al. (2021) provide insight into air pollution and mental health in China and Germany respectively, raising questions about air pollution mitigation and subsequent strategies to improve mental health and wellbeing.

Suggested readings:

  • Buoli, M. et al. (2018) “Is there a link between air pollution and mental disorders?,”Environment International, 118, pp. 154–168. Available at:
  • Chen, S., et al. (2018) “Air pollution and mental health: Evidence from China,” NBER Working Paper Series, Working Paper No. 24686. Available at:
  • Petrowski, K. et al. (2021) “Examining air pollution (PM10), mental health and well-being in a representative German sample,” Scientific Reports, 11(1). Available at:

Proposed by Holly Stevens

Session 1: 28th October 2022

The psychology of social class and health

It is widely accepted by geographers of health that socioeconomic class and health outcomes are connected. However, the very definition of social class is typically static and simplified. This week, therefore, the reading group will discuss how our view of social class depends on individual circumstance; on inequality within neighbourhoods and one’s wider environment, as well as changes in social class within one’s own life. Furthermore, we will discuss how this impacts health; how does an upward movement on the social mobility ladder influence your health if social class is entrenched in you through a rigid class system? And how can we incorporate our understanding of social rank into policy decisions aiming to improve public health? The short introduction by Simandan offers a good overview of the topic, whilst the Boyce, Brown and Moore paper explores the differing importance of ranked versus absolute income on life satisfaction outcomes. Finally, Mishra and Carleton’s paper expands on this by discussing how relative deprivation connects to both mental and physical health.

Suggested readings:

Proposed by Elisabeth Mjaaland

Academic year 2021-2022

Session 10: 10th June 2022

Health Infrastructure

This session will run as a hybrid between online and in-person discussion – contact Caroline Kienast- von Einem ( for details of the meeting.

This session is first led by a short “Opinion” (Jain et al., 2022) on American Journal of Public Health, which rethinks the relationship between infrastructure and health and argues “all infrastructure is health infrastructure“, with infrastructure policies and legislation considered in today’s US context.

Then, our discussion is based on two research articles on health infrastructure more specifically: Moreno-Leguizamon and Tavar-Restrepo (2022) use three projects on health inequalities among ethnic minority groups to show the spatial interactions of health-based infrastructure, identities, and stigma in the South East of England; analysing 58 e-health studies, the other article (Wong and Rigby, 2022) identifies digital health risk during the COVID-19 and emphasises the significance of e-health infrastructure and health informatics to face global health emergency. These debates and summaries might help us think of the needs for health infrastructure of different populations at regional, national and global levels, along with the implication of health infrastructure.

Suggested readings:

  • Bhav Jain , Simar S. Bajaj , and Fatima Cody Stanford, “All Infrastructure Is Health Infrastructure”, American Journal of Public Health 112, no. 1 (January 1, 2022).
  • Moreno-Leguizamon, C., & Tovar-Restrepo, M. (2022). Transbordering assemblages: Power, agency and autonomy (re) producing health infrastructures in the South East of England. Urban Studies, 59(3), 624-640.
  • Wong, Z. S. Y., & Rigby, M. (2022). Identifying and addressing digital health risks associated with emergency pandemic response: Problem identification, scoping review, and directions toward evidence-based evaluation. International journal of medical informatics, 157, 104639. This Book is not for our session but for any interest in this topic historically: Geltner, G. (2019). Roads to Health: Infrastructure and Urban Wellbeing in Later Medieval Italy. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Proposed by Chen Qu

Session 9: 20th May 2022

Crime, cognitive performance and economic mobility

This session will run as a hybrid between online and in-person discussion – contact Caroline Kienast- von Einem ( for details of the meeting.

Crime, cognitive performance, and economic mobility are all connected to location, showcased here through two readings exploring the effect of neighbourhood crime. The first paper, by Patrick Sharkey, explores the effect of local homicides on the cognitive performance of children in Chicago neighbourhoods. Sharkey finds that the negative influence of violence extends beyond those who witnessed it directly; children living in a violent area suffer despite not being personally or directly victimized. Interestingly, he also finds different effects between different demographic groups, both in the immediate and in the long term.

The second paper, by Sharkey and Torrats-Espinosa, situates these findings in a broader economic context. By incorporating the effect of violent crime on economic mobility at the county level, it explores the overarching mechanisms behind low rates of upward mobility. Additonally, it further highlights the links between violence and academic outcomes, again attempting to follow these effects in both the immediate and the long term. Together, these papers allow an insight into the causes behind intergenerational poverty, and how it is rooted in both location, neighbourhood and race, in addition to various other socio-economic factors.

Suggested readings:

  • Sharkey, P. (2010). The acute effect of local homicides on children’s cognitive performance. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(26), 11733-11738.
  • Sharkey, P., & Torrats-Espinosa, G. (2017). The effect of violent crime on economic mobility. Journal of Urban Economics, 102, 22-33.

Proposed by Elisabeth Mjaaland

Session 8: 6th May 2022

The influence of context and composition on health outcomes

This session will run as a hybrid between online and in-person discussion – contact Caroline Kienast- von Einem ( for details of the meeting.

The determinants of health are often conceptualised to be operating at two different levels: a lower compositional level and a higher, contextual one. Compositional effects are thought to exist as a result of the diverse distribution of individuals whose personal characteristics influence their health. In other words, persons with similar features will have similar health experiences regardless of where they live. Contextual impacts, on the other hand, occur when an individual’s health experience is influenced not only by their own features but also by the characteristics of the area in which they live, resulting in similar persons having varied health status from one location to the next.

In this session I would like to explore the influences of contextual versus compositional factors on health outcomes and whether this separate conceptualisation is helpful for our understanding of health inequalities. The first paper provides a good overview of the topic and how researchers have traditionally engaged with the subject. The second paper explores compositional, contextual, as well as collective factors impacting mental health in Australian rural communities, and offers an application of the concepts discussed in paper 1.

Suggested readings:

  • Smyth, F. (2008). Medical geography: understanding health inequalities. Progress in Human Geography, 32(1), 119-127.
  • Collins, J., Ward, B. M., Snow, P., Kippen, S., & Judd, F. (2017). Compositional, contextual, and collective community factors in mental health and well-being in Australian rural communities. Qualitative health research, 27(5), 677-687.

Proposed by Caroline Kienast- von Einem

Session 7: 25th February 2022

Urban Food Systems in Africa

This session will run as a hybrid between online and in-person discussion – contact Papa Momodou Jack ( for details of the meeting.

In South Africa, urbanisation coincides with a double burden of malnutrition: undernutrition and overnutrition. Undernutrition is evidenced by persistent levels of childhood underweight, stunting, wasting, and micronutrient deficiencies attributable to insufficient food uptake to meet the bodies nutritional need. By contrast, overnutrition, which is the focus of discussion, is driven by overconsumption of low nutrient energy dense (LNED) foods beyond the body’s needs. Its prevalence in the South African context is substantiated by a growing burden of overweight, obesity and micro-nutrient deficiency.

Given this context, exploratory health research is being conducted to better understand the complex factors and nuances that underpin individual and community dietary practices in South Africa’s urban areas. I have selected two articles for discussion. The first article (Hunter-Adams et al 2019) speaks to the broader coexistence of under-and-over nutrition as experienced by women living in a South African peri-urban informal settlement. The second article, (Battersby 2019) emphasises the importance of using contextually appropriate analytical tools to capture the nuances of urban food practises in low- and-middle income country settings, using examples from South Africa, Zambia and Kenya.

Suggested readings:

  • Battersby, J. (2019). The Food Desert as a Concept and Policy Tool in African Cities: An Opportunity and a Risk. Sustainability, 11 (2), 1-15.
  • Hunter-Adams, J., Battersby, J., and Oni, T. (2019). Food insecurity in relation to obesity in peri-urban Cape Town, South Africa: Implications for diet-related non-communicable disease. Appetite, 137, 244-249.

Proposed by Trish Muzenda.

Session 6: 11th February 2022

The Seasonality of Human Births

This session will run as a hybrid between online and in-person discussion – contact Papa Momodou Jack ( for details of the meeting.

This session will discuss the topic of birth seasonality from social, spatial and medical aspects. The first article is on an analysis of the seasonality of births in mainland China based on a big national dataset, showing how birth seasonality patterns relate to human mobility in addition to location and family factors. The introduction of different nations’ birth seasonality and this topic’s public health implications are also informative.

On the other hand, numerous articles have found links between the seasonality of birth and the incidence of schizophrenia, yet few have studied how this relationship is propagated. Our second article investigates the mechanisms through which schizophrenia is actually influenced by seasonality, by exploring the various factors the multi-faceted term ‘seasonality’ covers, focusing in particular on temperature and viral infections. Furthermore, it provides an effective overview of previous research done on these factors.

Suggested readings:

  • Yang, Y. (2021). Analysing the seasonality of births in mainland China. Journal of Biosocial Science, 53(2), pp. 233-246. doi:10.1017/S0021932020000164
  • Tochigi, M., Okazaki, Y., Kato, N., & Sasaki, T. (2004). What causes seasonality of birth in schizophrenia? Neuroscience research, 48(1), pp. 1–11.

Proposed by Chen Qu and Elisabeth Mjaaland.

Session 5: 28th January 2022

Demographic studies of migration and health

This session will run as a hybrid between online and in-person discussion – contact Papa Momodou Jack ( for details of the meeting.

The first article I have chosen is a classic text from historical demography which examines the role of migration as it affected the overall health and population growth of European cities in the early modern era. Sharlin argues against the commonly held idea that conditions in early modern cities were so dreadful that populations could only be sustained through migration. Sharlin suggests that although migrants might have been healthier in some ways, lack of resistance to disease may have led to particularly high mortality in this group, pushing up urban mortality rates. The second article also examines the health of migrant and host populations, this time for internal migrants in the UK, demonstrating different patterns for migrants from Scotland and England. Together these two papers introduce some of the issues with studying migration and health which affect both past and present times.

Suggested readings:

  • Allan Sharlin, Natural decrease in early modern cities: A reconsideration, Past & Present, 79(1), 1978, 126–138,
  • Matthew Wallace & Hill Kulu, Migration and Health in England and Scotland: a Study of Migrant Selectivity and Salmon Bias, Population Space and Place, 20(8), 2014, 694-708.

Proposed by Alice Reid.

Session 4: 26th November 2021

The Indexification of Poverty

This session will run as a hybrid between online and in-person discussion – contact Papa Momodou Jack ( for details of the meeting.

For this session we are sharing a full draft of an article which started life as a discussion in the Geographies of Health Reading Group. During a meeting in 2019, the group began to examine and critique some of the underlying data used to construct the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD), the UK government’s flagship measure of small-area deprivation. Widely deployed as a variable across health geography and epidemiology, the IMD has also been taken up by critical geographers (including ourselves) to justify site selection when researching poverty and wellbeing.

In the paper, we aim to think critically about the geographies of production and consumption of indices more broadly. What assumptions are baked into their frameworks and epistemologies, and how does this affect qualitative research which adopts them without critical reflection? We then drill down into the specifics of the IMD, arguing that its construction means that its use by critical geographers should, at the very least, be called into question. By bringing this work back to the reading group which first inspired it, our hope is to provoke a second lively discussion.

Suggested readings:

  • The draft paper will be shared with the mailing list in advance of the session.

Proposed by Ed Kiely and Sam Strong.

Session 3: 12th November 2021

Dementia in Rural Uganda

This session will run as a hybrid between online and in-person discussion – contact Papa Momodou Jack ( for details of the meeting.

Globally, around 55 million people are estimated to be living with dementia, with more than 60 percent of these individuals residing in low- and middle-income countries (WHO, 2021). Across much of sub-Saharan Africa, however, research on the prevalence and social dynamics of dementia is limited. During this session, we will consider two recent studies on dementia, both of which are situated in rural Uganda. The first paper, by Mubangizi et al (2020), estimates the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias in rural Uganda. The second paper, by Owokuhaisa et al (2020), explores community perceptions about dementia in southwestern Uganda, and examines the significant stressors impacting people with dementia and their carers.

Suggested readings:

  • Mubangizi, V., Maling, S., Obua, C., and Tsai, A. C. (2020). Prevalence and correlates of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias in rural Uganda: cross-sectional, population-based study. BMC Geriatrics, 20 (48), 1-7.
  • Owokuhaisa, J., Rukundo, G. Z., Wakida, E., Obua, C., and Buss, S. S. (2020). Community perceptions about dementia in southwestern Uganda. BMC Geriatrics, 20 (135), 1-12.

Proposed by Papa Momodou Jack.

Session 2: 29th October 2021

The Social and Health Impacts of China’s Family Planning Policies

Please note that this session will be held online – contact Papa Momodou Jack ( for details of the online meeting.

China’s family planning policy after the nation’s reform from 1979 is gradually changing with the rapid growth of the ageing population. From the one-child policy (1979–2015) to today’s three-child policy (from August 2021), the health and social impacts of these policies cannot be overlooked. This session will discuss the impacts of the one-child policy (1979–2015) and “selective two-child policy” (2014 – 2015). One article (Huang et al., 2021) explores how exposure to stricter fertility restrictions in early life can contribute to increased education/employment levels and women’s empowerment. The other article (Zhou et al., 2021), in accordance with Becker’s quantity-quality trade-off theory (1960), indicates a mechanism where the two-child policy can reduce female incomes and child health insurance. These China-based cases may trigger a rethink of the implications and effectiveness of population, social and health policies more broadly, such as increasing fertility rates in developed countries, and improving gender equality and family/child welfare.

Suggested readings:

  • Huang, W., Lei, X., and Sun, A. (2021). Fertility restrictions and life cycle outcomes: Evidence from the one-child policy in China. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 103 (4), pp.694-710.
  • Zhou, Y., Jia, N., and Yang, T. (2021). The quantity–quality trade-off related to investment in healthy human capital: New evidence from the implementation of the “selective two-child policy” in China. Journal of Asian Economics, 76, pp.1-13.

Proposed by Chen Qu.

Session 1: 15th October 2021

The Promotion of Active Travel

Please note that this session will be held online – contact Papa Momodou Jack ( for details of the online meeting.

Regular physical activity offers many health benefits. Yet, many individuals do not meet the recommended physical activity guidelines, and physical inactivity is one of the leading causes of mortality worldwide. One approach to increasing activity levels is to target everyday travel behaviours and incorporate activity into daily routines, for example by promoting active commuting. Since most travel behaviours are habitual it has been suggested that breaking unhealthy travel behaviours requires certain triggers or ‘windows of opportunity’. Examples of such triggers are key life events, such as the relocation to a new home. The way and degree to which residential relocation and other life events affect travel behaviour is discussed in the two papers by Clark et al. and Adhikari et al..

With Clark et al. comparing different life events and their impacts, and Adhikari et al. focusing on how changing environmental characteristics following relocation influence travel decisions, both provide some interesting insights while posing further questions. What factors should be considered most influential in changing travel behaviours? How can these findings be used to encourage a shift towards active travel? What might limit the promotion of active travel following key events?

Suggested readings:

  • Clark, B., Chatterjee, K., Melia, S., Knies, G. and Laurie, H., 2014. Life events and travel behavior: Exploring the interrelationship using UK household longitudinal study data. Transportation Research Record, 2413(1), pp.54-64.
  • Adhikari, B., Hong, A. and Frank, L.D., 2020. Residential relocation, preferences, life events, and travel behavior: A pre-post study. Research in Transportation Business & Management, 36, p.100483.

Proposed by Caroline Kienast von Einem.

Academic year 2020-2021

Session 11: 11th June 2021

The 1918 Influenza Pandemic

Please note that this session will be held online – contact Sarah Rafferty ( for details of the online meeting.

With much focus over the past 18 months on the COVID-19 pandemic, in this reading group we will be turning our attention back one hundred years to the 1918 influenza pandemic. Aided by the demobilisation of soldiers after WWI, it has been estimated that a third of the global population was infected by the H1N1 virus during 1918 and 1919, resulting in at least 50 million deaths. The two suggested readings take a quantitative approach to explore variations in excess mortality over the course of this pandemic. Clay et al. (2019) use aggregate data to compare 438 US cities, whereas Bengtsson et al. (2018) utilise individual-level mortality data for the entire population of Sweden. Additionally, the optional podcast provides a broad introduction to the 1918 pandemic, as well as discussing its similarities and differences to our experiences with the current pandemic.

What can we learn about vulnerabilities to the 1918 influenza pandemic from these papers? And should we have paid more attention to historical lessons in preparing for modern pandemics?

Suggested readings:

  • K. Clay, J. Lewis and E. Severnini. (2019) ‘What explains cross-city variation in mortality during the 1918 influenza pandemic? Evidence from 438 U.S. cities’, Economics and Human Biology, 35: 42-50.
  • T. Bengtsson, M. Dribe and B. Eriksson. (2018) ‘Social Class and Excess Mortality in Sweden During the 1918 Influenza Pandemic’, American Journal of Epidemiology, 187(12): 2568-2576.

Optional podcast:

‘What can we learn from the 1918 flu pandemic?’ –

Proposed by Sarah Rafferty.

Session 10: 28th May 2021

What do Black people think of primary healthcare in the United Kingdom?

Please note that this session will be held online – contact Sarah Rafferty ( for details of the online meeting.

In the UK, the specific narratives of people with Black ethnicities is often mixed within wider groupings of communities who may be providing very different data such as research focusing on ‘ethnic minorities’, ‘BAME’ and ‘BME’. People with Black ethnicities have consistently emerged as one of the groups least willing to take a COVID -19 vaccine. This has caused a lot of consternation among public health professionals and Black communities themselves over many months. However, these attitudes and behaviours towards certain aspects of primary care among Black groups is not new. Black people have been making their views and experiences of primary care known much before the global pandemic. There is a history of mistrust of healthcare professionals, poorer health outcomes and negative perceptions of primary care among people with Black ethnicities which are all playing a part in the response to the pandemic. In this session we will focus on the importance of the qualitative perceptions of Black people as it relates to their own healthcare, how the pandemic has affected this and what the outlook may be in a post COVID world.

Suggested readings:

  • Edge D. (2011). ‘It’s leaflet, leaflet, leaflet then, “see you later”‘: black Caribbean women’s perceptions of perinatal mental health care. The British journal of general practice : the journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners, 61(585), 256–262.
  • Alidu L, Grunfeld EA. ‘What a dog will see and kill, a cat will see and ignore it’: An exploration of health-related help-seeking among older Ghanaian men residing in Ghana and the United Kingdom. Br J Health Psychol. 2020 Nov;25(4):1102-1117. Epub 2020 Jul 13. PMID: 32656938.

Optional podcast:

‘Vaccine Hesitancy and Ethnicity; The Joy of catnip; Lake Heatwaves’ –

Proposed by Oyinkansola Ojo-Aromokudu.

Session 9: 14th May 2021

Practices of (Non) Engagement with Health Services

(Joint with the CRASSH Health, Medicine & Agency Network)

Please note the change of start time to 12:00 for this session, and that it will be held online. Please contact Sarah Rafferty ( for details of the online meeting.

For this joint reading group, we ask how we can understand practices of (non)engagement between certain sociodemographic groups and healthcare services.

With Beatriz Aragon, a medical anthropologist and medical practitioner working alongside the Gipsy Roma Traveller community in Spain for years, we will read and discuss the second chapter of her PhD thesis, ‘The Admission Desk’. This chapter brilliantly describes healthcare access, prejudice and discrimination of GRT groups from the ground up. To complement that perspective, we will discuss strategies to involve and engage with less heard communities in healthcare and research in the UK. Bella Starling, Vocal’s director and Wellcome Trust engagement fellow, will guide us through the innovative work that her team collaborates with a diverse range of community representatives in Manchester.

Diverging in their approaches, we want to provide a forum and two readings to discuss what is gained and what is lost from the methodological and conceptual decisions we make when trying to unpack issues such as ‘cultural difference’ concerning health-seeking and clinical research participation.

Suggested readings:

  • Aragón Martín, Beatriz; (2017) Ill-timed patients: Gitanos, cultural difference and primary health care in a time of crisis. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Please read CHAPTER 2. The dissertation is available here:
  • Islam, Safina […] and Bella Starling (pre-print). “We are not Hard to Reach, but we may find it Hard to Trust” Involving and Engaging ‘Seldom Listened to’ Community Voices in Clinical Translational Health Research: A Social Innovation Approach. Research Involvement and Engagement. Pre-print available at:

Optional reading:

  • Niksic, M., Rachet, B., Warburton, F. et al. (2016) Ethnic differences in cancer symptom awareness and barriers to seeking medical help in England. Br J Cancer 115, 136–144.

Session 8: 5th March 2021

Health of the Elderly: What is ‘Care’ in a Care Home Context?

Please note that this session will be held online – contact Sarah Rafferty ( for details of the online meeting.

It has long been recognised that the home environment has the potential to support or constrain healthy ageing. The notion of ‘homely’ places has been the focus of studies that explore geographies of care contexts including residential care homes, where the replication of a ‘homely environment’ was depicted against a tensile relationship between institutional and domestic attributes which led residents to feel that they were “in a home” as opposed to “at home” (Peace and Holland 2001). The very concept of a ‘care home’ developed for residents in later life to be occupied by virtue of their age and assumed impotence in matters of personal care says much about our assumptions of later life, as does the way in which rooms and residents are configured and classified (neither were done in a manner conducive to maintaining health nor homeliness during the COVID-19 pandemic). Thus, the ‘homeliness’ of care homes – or lack thereof – raises questions about both practical and cultural notions of care and implicit assumptions of aging and aging bodies. What is care in the care home context? Who is being cared for and what is being cared about?

The first article draws on recent scholarship on ‘materialities of care’ and the second article focuses on the nature of homeliness in residential care homes. Another short article is attached, touching more generally on socially marginalised spaces and the impact of being such during the pandemic.

Suggested readings:

  • Nettleton, S., Buse, C. & Martin, D. “‘Essentially it’s just a lot of bedrooms’: architectural design, prescribed personalisation and the construction of care homes for later life.” Sociology of Health & Illness 40.7 (2018): 1156-1171.
  • Peace, S. & Holland, C. “Homely residential care: a contradiction in terms?” Journal of Social Policy. 30.3 (2001): 393-410.
  • Biglieri, S., De Vidovich, L. & Keil, R. “City as the core of contagion? Repositioning COVID-19 at the social and spatial periphery of urban society.” Cities & Health (2020): 1-3.

Proposed by Meg Majumder.

Session 7: 19th February 2021

Health and Environment
(Joint with the CRASSH Health, Medicine & Agency Network)

Please note the change of start time to 12:00 for this session, and that it will be held online. Please contact Sarah Rafferty ( for details of the online meeting.

In this joint reading group, we would like to provide a forum for students, researches and university staff members to discuss the idea of how the environment gets under our skin and how we can negotiate those dynamics; that is, we would like to ask how we come to embody the socio-material affordances of the environments we live in and to what effects. To inform the discussion, we are going to read beforehand two research articles that bring together, from different perspectives, reflections on the unequal effects of urban segregation on people’s health.

Suggested readings:

Session 6: 5th February 2021

Health, Localism and Depoliticisation

Please note that this session will be held online – contact Sarah Rafferty ( for details of the online meeting.

Notions of place are central to health geography, but in policy these concepts can be developed in dubious ways. This session probes the potentially problematic deployment of localism within UK government health policy. The first paper, by Hammond et al, analyses the ongoing reorganising of the NHS into Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships, and asks whether an emphasis on ‘local consensus’ works to to depoliticise decision making in health systems. The second paper, by Featherstone et al, offers a more general theorisation of austerity localism, suggesting how discourses of ‘the local’ can buttress an agenda of service retrenchment. What lessons can health geographers draw from these debates in terms of our conceptualisations of place? And what does this tell us about how we should engage with policymakers?

Suggested readings:

  • Hammond, J., Lorne, C., Coleman, A., Allen, P., Mays, N., Dam, R., … Checkland, K. (2017). The spatial politics of place and health policy: Exploring Sustainability and Transformation Plans in the English NHS. Social Science & Medicine, 190, 217–226.
  • Featherstone, D., Ince, A., Mackinnon, D., Strauss, K., & Cumbers, A. (2012). Progressive localism and the construction of political alternatives: Boundary Crossings. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 37(2), 177–182.

Proposed by Ed Kiely.

Session 5: 22nd January 2021

Instagram as a Biopedagogy for Women’s Health

Please note that this session will be held online – contact Sarah Rafferty ( for details of the online meeting.

The World Health Organisation (1948) defines health as, “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. However, women’s health is measured against a more visual criteria related to dominant discourses of beauty, weight and femininity. To conform to such notions of health throughout history, women have undergone processes of body alteration, from wearing organ displacing corsets in Victorian Britain, to wearing push-up bras and undergoing cosmetic surgery in contemporary society – Physical exercise has become the latest mechanism used to enforce normative understandings and expressions of women’s health. Due to social media’s visual culture and that approximately 80% of internet users aged 18-46 use online media platforms as their source of health information (Khamis et al., 2017), Instagram has emerged as a biopedagogy for women’s health, with fitness influencers ‘teaching’ women the parameters of a ‘healthy’ body through exercise and diet.

The first article conducts a postfeminist Foucauldian analysis of Instagram as a biopedalogical site, whilst the second article focuses on one of the many consequences arising from Instagram and fitness influencers.

Suggested readings:
(CONTENT WARNING – Discussion of Orthorexia Nervosa and other Eating Disorders)

  • Camacho-Miñano, M.J., MacIsaac , S. and Rich, E. (2019) Postfeminist biopedagogies of Instagram: young women learning about bodies, health and fitness. Sport, Education and Society. 24(6).
  • Håman, L., Lindgren, E. and Prell, H. (2017) “If it’s not Iron it’s Iron f*cking biggest Ironman”: personal trainers’ views on health norms, orthorexia and deviant behaviours. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being, 12(2).

Proposed by Sophie John.

Session 4: 27th November 2020

Living Spaces, Health and the Pandemic

Please note that this session will be held online – contact Sarah Rafferty ( for details of the online meeting.

The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown have affected urban dwellers’ lifestyle. In this session, we will discuss living spaces’ health impacts during COVID-19 and potential approaches to enhancing post-pandemic urban liveability from a health-and design-related facet. The first article – an empirical study undertaken in the pandemic outbreak – shows how living spaces’ design correlates with students’ mental health, while in the second, the authors deliberate healthy, safe and sustainable housing guidance in response to pandemic challenges. Another brief paper affords reflections on what urban planning and design can serve pandemic stricken cities.

Suggested readings:

  • Amerio A, Brambilla A, Morganti A, et al. (2020) ‘COVID-19 Lockdown: Housing Built Environment’s Effects on Mental Health’, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(16), 5973. Available from:
  • D’Alessandro D, Gola M, Appolloni L, Dettori M, et al. (2020) ‘COVID-19 and Living space challenge. Well-being and Public Health recommendations for a healthy, safe, and sustainable housing’, Acta Bio Med. 91(9-S), 61-5. Available from:
  • Allam, Z., & Jones, D. S. (2020) ‘Pandemic stricken cities on lockdown. where are our planning and design professionals [now, then and into the future]?’ Land Use Policy, 97. Available from:

Proposed by Chen Qu.

Session 3: 13th November 2020

COVID-19: an ‘Infodemic’ of Misinformation

Please note that this session will be held online – contact Sarah Rafferty ( for details of the online meeting.

“As the coronavirus spreads, so does an infodemic of misinformation.” The age of the internet and social media has led to a rise in ‘fake news’ and its fast spread across the globe. This has recently extended to preventions, tests and treatments for COVID-19. One of the most publicised and controversial of such pieces of news was President Trump’s endorsement of the antimalarial drug Hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin as a preventative measure of the virus. The first reading is the article in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents that suggested that there was evidence that hydroxychloroquine treatment was significantly associated with eliminating COVID-19 in patients (this has since been heavily criticised). The second reading is part of a study from the Reuters Institute, University of Oxford, on how people access and assess information about COVID-19.

Where do people get their news from? Which sources do they trust? And how can we tackle misinformation, especially if it is coming from people in positions of power?

Suggested readings:

Optional Reading – Criticisms of the Hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin article:

  • Rosendaal, F.R. ‘Review of: “Hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin as a treatment of COVID-19: results of an open-label non-randomized clinical trial Gautret et al 2020, DOI:10.1016/j.ijantimicag.2020.105949″‘, International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents, 56(1): 106063.

Proposed by Sarah Rafferty.

Session 2: 30th October 2020

Impacts of the 2014-15 Ebola Epidemic

Please note that this session will be held online – contact Sarah Rafferty ( for details of the online meeting.

Often when we think about epidemics and their impacts, morbidity and mortality rates are the first things that come to mind. The reality is however, that the impacts are much more wide-ranging and can last for years after the epidemic is ‘over’. Elston et al. (2017) for example, argue that the consequences of the 2014-15 Ebola outbreak in West Africa were more severe than the outbreak itself, impacting both wider population health, as well as affecting key social determinants of health. In this reading group we will discuss the broader implications of epidemics, focusing on the 2014-15 Ebola outbreak. The first paper (Elston et al., 2017) provides an overview of its longer-term and societal impacts, and the second paper (Karafillakis et al., 2016) uses qualitative interviews to unpack individual survivor’s experiences.

Suggested Readings:

Proposed by Papa Momodou Jack.

Session 1: 16th October 2020

The Spirit Level Theory

Please note that this session will be held online – contact Sarah Rafferty ( for details of the online meeting.

This discussion will be based on the popular book The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett (2009). The research analysed data from 23 countries and 50 US states finding that populations with the biggest gap between the rich and the poor had shorter, unhealthier and unhappier lives. They therefore concluded that more unequal societies cause chronic health and social problems for everyone, including the rich. This work was not without its criticisms however – notably surrounding insufficient data, over-simplified statistical analysis and concerns over dressing a political position as a matter of scientific fact. Yet, what it did do was put inequality firmly back on the political agenda. The first reading is a more recent publication from The Spirit Level authors, reemphasising the relationship between income inequality and health. The second reading is the Executive Summary of The Marmot Review, 10 Years On, highlighting stalling life expectancies and increasing wealth and health inequalities in England.

Do we agree with the Spirit Level theory? Does evidence from the UK over time support the theory? Should we be focusing on reducing inequalities rather than poverty directly, or do these come hand in hand?

Suggested Readings:

Proposed by Sarah Rafferty.

Academic year 2019-2020

Session 8: 29th May 2020

Care in times of crisis: mutual aid against state services

Please note that this session will be held online – contact Sarah Rafferty ( for details of the online meeting.

The COVID-19 pandemic is transforming geographies of healthcare provision across the world. Many services are overwhelmed by soaring demand and staffing shortages, while others are struggling to adjust to unprecedented changes in their ways of working. In the face of failures in state services, mutual aid groups have sprung up across the UK. These build on longer, radical traditions of self-help in black working-class communities facing violence and state racism.

Our first set of short readings examine mutual aid in the current crisis through the example of #MadCovid, a group of survivors of mental health services. Through research, writing and creative interventions, they are drawing attention to the disproportionate impacts of quarantine on people facing enduring mental health issues. In addition, they have set up a hardship fund to support survivors financially during the crisis. Our second reading explores the black working-class tradition of mutual aid through the life history of Jimmy Rogers, a youth worker and sports coach who worked in Liverpool and Brixton beginning in the 1960s.

What does mutual aid tell us about the shortcomings and failings of state services and care provision? How are digital technologies transforming geographies of mutual aid? When is research itself a form of mutual aid? And more broadly, how are health and care practices influenced by racism, saneism, marginalisation and stigma?

Suggested readings:

Proposed by Ed Kiely

Session 7: 15th May 2020

Health and Solidarity
(Joint with the CRASSH Health, Medicine & Agency Network)

See details of this session.

Please note the change of start time to 12:00 for this session, and that it will be held online. Please contact Sarah Rafferty ( for details of the online meeting.

Suggested readings:

  • Prainsack, B., & Buyx, A. (2017). Solidarity in biomedicine and beyond (Vol. 33). Cambridge University Press (Chapter 5: Solidarity in Practice I: Governing Health Databases).
  • Huish, R. (2017). ‘Why Cuban Solidarity Was Ebola’s Antidote: How Cuban Medical Internationalism is Radically Changing Health Geographies in the Global South’, Human Geography, 10(3):54-70.

Session 6: 6th March 2020

Maternal Mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa
(Joint with the CRASSH Health, Medicine & Agency Network)

See details of this session.

Please note the change of start time to 12:00 for this session.

Suggested readings:

  • Carvajal–Aguirre, L., Amouzou, A., Mehra, V., Ziqi, M., Zaka, N., & Newby, H. (2017). Gap between contact and content in maternal and newborn care: An analysis of data from 20 countries in sub–Saharan Africa. Journal of global health, 7(2). doi: 10.7189/jogh.07.020501
  • Sully, E. A., Biddlecom, A. S., & Darroch, J. E. (2019). Not all inequalities are equal: differences in coverage across the continuum of reproductive health services. BMJ global health, 4(5), e001695 doi: 10.1136/ bmjgh-2019-001695
  • Vaughan, M. (2014). Maternal mortality in Malawi: History and moral responsibility. In (Eds) Kalusa, W. T., & Vaughan’Death, Belief and Politics in Central African History’. pp. 293-326. [PDF]

Session 5: 7th February 2020

The policy impact of health research

In recent years, scholars are increasingly encouraged to produce research that has policy impact beyond the academy. Especially (public) health research is expected to play a key role in providing the evidence base needed to support the development and monitoring of health policies. This trend raises some important questions that will be discussed in this session, including: Should health research necessarily be policy-oriented?; How can the policy impact of research by defined and measured?, and; Why does solid evidence not always find its way from research into practice? The first article, from the field of political science, sets out four different approaches to theorising the relationship between research and policy which could be translated to health studies, and considers the impact of each approach on incentivising and measuring research impact. Starting from a Scottish Health Geographical case study, the second paper describes how the thinking about research impact has informed the authors’ approach to knowledge exchange.

Suggested readings:

  • Boswell, C. and Smith, K. (2017) ‘Rethinking policy ‘impact’: four models of research-policy relations’, Palgrave Communications 3(44), doi: 10.1057/s41599-017-0042-z.
  • Shortt, N.K.; Pearce, J.; Mitchell, R. and Smith, K.E. (2016) ‘Taking Health Geography out of the Academy: Measuring Academic Impact’, Social Science & Medicine 168, 265-272.

Proposed by Lander Bosch.

Session 4: 17th January 2020

Using genome editing technologies in Sub-Saharan Africa: Ethical implications and local perspectives.

According to the World Health Organisation (2017), 700,000 annual deaths are the result of vector-borne diseases such as malaria. In an attempt to address this global health concern, a group of genome editing technologies have emerged in recent years with the potential to combat vector-borne diseases. The CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing tool, in particular, has been regarded by many in the scientific community as a potentially efficient, accurate, and economical method to fight malaria. Two papers by Neves and Druml (2017) and Marshall et al. (2010) will be discussed during the session. Neves and Druml (2017) discuss the ethical implications of using the CRISPR/Cas9 tool for malaria control, whilst the study by Marshall et al. (2010) explores public attitudes toward genetically-modified mosquitoes in Mali.

Suggested readings:

  • Marshall, J. M., Touré, M. B., Traore, M. M., Famenini, S., and Taylor, C. E. (2010). Perspectives of people in Mali toward genetically-modified mosquitoes for malaria control. Malaria Journal, 9 (128), 1-12.
  • Neves, M. P., and Druml, C. (2017). Ethical implications of fighting malaria with CRISPR/Cas9. BMJ Global Health, 2 (3), 1-3.

Proposed by Papa Momodou Jack.

Session 3: 8th November 2019

“Who and What Causes Health Inequalities?”
(Joint with the CRASSH Health, Medicine & Agency Network)

Please note the change of start time to 12:00 for this session.


  • An introductory article with reference to theories and policy:
    McCartney, G., Collins, C. and Mackenzie, M. (2013) ‘What (or who) causes health inequalities: Theories, evidence and implications?’, Health Policy, 113: 221-227.
  • Interactive map showing life expectancy inequalities in London (paper and link to map): Cheshire, J. (2012) ‘Featured graphic. Lives on the line: mapping life expectancy along the London Tube network’, Environment and Planning A, 44: 1525-1528. http://doi:10.1068/a45341]doi:10.1068/a45341

Additional readings of further interest:

  • A quantitative study of inequalities in premature mortality:
    Thomas, B., Dorling, D. and Smith, G.D. (2010) ‘Inequalities in premature mortality in Britain: observational study from 1921 to 2007’, BMJ, 341: http://c3639.doi:10.1136/bmj.c3639
  • A qualitative ethnographic study of perspectives on health inequalities in North East England: Garthwaite, K. and Bambra, C. (2017) ‘”How the other half live”: Lay perspectives on health inequalities in an age of austerity’, Social Science & Medicine, 187: 268-275.
  • Other key books if people are interested in reading further/a more international perspective:
    Marmot, M. (2016) The Health Gap: The Challenge of an Unequal World. iDiscover
    Bambra, C. (2016) Health divides: where you live can kill you. iDiscover

Session 2: 1st November 2019

Vaccine Hesitancy

Vaccines have been recognised as one of the most successful public health measures, however the implementation of vaccination schemes can be limited by a number of social, economic, political and geographical factors (Hotez, 2019, provides a brief overview of these). Vaccine hesitancy and anti-vaccination movements are becoming increasingly prominent barriers to vaccination schemes, particularly in the ‘developed’ world (LSHTM, 2019). For example, recent outbreaks of measles in Europe and North America are thought to be a consequence of vaccine hesitancy and therefore decreasing vaccination rates. Of particular interest is the rise of ‘fake news’ and misleading anti-vaccination communication through social media platforms. Smith and Graham (2019) have mapped the anti-vaccination movement through six Facebook pages based in Australia, with interesting findings regarding gender and language.

In this reading group we will discuss the current geographical patterns of vaccination rates and the growth of anti-vaccination movements, as well as the consequences that the ‘fake news’ era may have on public health.

Suggested readings:

Proposed by Sarah Rafferty

Session 1: 18th October 2019

“Gendering” Mental Health Discourse

The mental health of women in the poorest parts of the world has become an important public health issue especially in developing country contexts where high prevalence rates are compounded by a lack of well-developed mental health services. The Movement for Global Mental Health takes particular interest in correcting gaps in access to mental health treatment and care across countries in the world. A number of critical scholars, however, have argued that the Movement is neo-Colonial and guided by Western biomedical frameworks which do not have resonance in local community contexts. Feminist scholars take this argument further to say that the movement also fails to account for gender differences and the particular experiences and positions of women in low-income settings. The papers below highlight why it is important to take intersectional approaches and look at how both gender and culture influence understandings of mental illness and approaches to treatment and care.

Suggested readings:

  • Burgess, R., & Campbell, C. (2014). Contextualising women’s mental distress and coping strategies in the time of AIDS: A rural South African case study. Transcultural psychiatry, 51(6), 875-903.
  • Kruger, L. M., & Lourens, M. (2016). Motherhood and the “madness of hunger”:”… Want Almal Vra vir My vir ‘n Stukkie Brood”(“… Because everyone asks me for a little piece of bread”). Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry, 40(1), 124-143. DOI: 10.1007/s11013-015-9480-5

Proposed by Saloni Atal

Academic year 2018-19

Session 11: 24th May 2019

Understanding postpartum depression in Sub-Saharan Africa

In many low-income countries, postpartum depression (PPD) continues to be a neglected condition within the field of maternal and child health. During this session, we will consider the cultural and socio-economic factors that play a significant role in PPD, and explore the ways in which women navigate healthcare systems that fail to adequately acknowledge PPD. Two papers by Azale et al. (2016) and Kathree et al. (2014) will be discussed during the session. Azale et al. (2016) examine the help-seeking behaviour of women with symptoms of PPD in rural Ethiopia. The study by Kathree et al. (2014) provides an overview of the causes of postnatal depression and the available treatment options for women in South Africa from low socio-economic backgrounds.

Suggested Readings:

  • Azale, T., Fekadu, A., and Hanlon, C. (2016) ‘Treatment gap and help-seeking for postpartum depression in a rural African setting’, BMC Psychiatry 16(196), 1-10.
  • Kathree, T., Selohilwe, O. M., Bhana, A., and Petersen, I. (2014 ‘Perceptions of postnatal depression and health care needs in a South African sample: the “mental” in maternal health care’, BMC Women’s Health 14(140), 1-11.

Proposed by Momodou Jack.

Session 10: 10th May 2019

Making space for other knowledges? Positionality, privilege and epistemology in health research

With the rise of PPI and the emergence of participatory research methods, it is now commonplace for research participants to play some role in shaping health research. At the same time, dominant forms of participation and patient involvement have been criticised for their tokenism, and for failing to adequately challenge the numerous hierarchies that are (re)produced in and through research. This intersects with a broader set of questions around positionality, privilege and epistemology in contemporary academia.

We will discuss two recent articles which work through these issues in relation to mental health research. The first, by McWade (2019), deals with the question of positionality from the perspective of a ‘non-mad-identified academic doing Mad Studies research’. The second, by Matthew and Papoulias (2019), describes a new model for patient participation which challenges narrow, goal-oriented approaches to PPI in research. We will discuss questions such as: How should academics position themselves? What does meaningful participation look like? How can we make space for other epistemologies within academic research? And what are the limits to this?

Suggested readings:

  • McWade, B. (2019) ‘Was it autoethnography? The classificatory, confessional and mad politics of lived experience in sociological research’, Social Theory & Health,
  • Matthews, R. and Papoulias, C. (2019) ‘Toward Co-productive Learning? The Exchange Network as Experimental Space’, Front. Sociol. 4:36, doi: 10.3389/fsoc.2019.00036.

Proposed by Ed Kiely.

Session 9: 26th April 2019

The impact of disability on life trajectories

This session will compare historical and contemporary perspectives on a similar topic: disability, and how it affected life trajectories. Two suggested readings form the starting point of the discussion. The first, by Vikström et al. (2017), is a historical paper examining 19th century Sweden – and a range of different life outcomes – using sequence analysis. The second, by Milner et al. (2018), is a recent paper looking at just one portion of a life trajectory: the predictors of exiting work.

Suggested Readings:

  • Vikström, L.; Haage, H. and Häggström Lundevaller, E. (2017) Sequence Analysis of How Disability Influenced Life Trajectories in a Past Population from the Nineteenth-Century Sundsvall Region, Sweden. Historical Life Course Studies 4, 97-119.
  • Milner, A.; Taouk, Y.; Disney, G.; Aitken, Z.; Rachele, J. and Kavanagh, A. (2018) Employment predictors of exit from work among workers with disabilities: A survival analysis from the household income labour dynamics in Australia survey. PLoS ONE 13(12): e0208334,

Proposed by Dr Alice Reid

Session 8: 22nd February 2019

Current life expectancy trends in England

Life expectancy at birth remains an important headline measure of the health status of the population and has generally increased in recent decades. However the rate of increase has slowed since 2011 for both males and females, an observation not unique to England or indeed to the UK. In 2018, the latest figures highlighted an increase in the number of deaths in recent winters and an apparent stalling in life expectancy for both men and women in England.

As well as the apparent stalling in improvement, the gap in life expectancy between socioeconomic groups persists and indeed is widening, with the most deprived communities now seeing no life expectancy gains. There is also a persistent north–south divide in life expectancy and healthy life expectancy, with people residing in southern regions of England on average living longer and with fewer years in poor health than those living further north. A study of older data found geographical patterns mainly attributable to variations in deprivation status. As a consequence of this observation, there is heightened interest around the reasons behind these trends and what future direction they may take. Potential factors identified include direct health effects and social and economic factors, with considerable debate around the role of austerity.

This session of the Reading Group will discuss the latest observations, variations seen and their interpretation, considering if other information and approaches are needed.

Suggested Readings:

  • Bennett JE, Pearson-Stuttard J, Kontis V, Capewell S, Wolfe I, Ezzati M. Contributions of diseases and injuries to widening life expectancy inequalities in England from 2001 to 2016: a population-based analysis of vital registration data. Lancet Public Health. 2018 Dec;3(12):e586-e597.
  • Public Health England. A review of recent trends in mortality in England. 2018. Available online:
  • Woods LM, Rachet B, Riga M, Stone N, Shah A, Coleman MP. Geographical variation in life expectancy at birth in England and Wales is largely explained by deprivation. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2005;59(2):115-20.

Proposed by Helen Green

Session 7: 8th February 2019

Tackling Inequalities in Rural Healthcare Provision

A large body of work in Health and Medical Geography focuses on the challenges posed by the need to provide adequate healthcare for an ever-growing urban population, both in the Global North and South. Nonetheless, the needs of those still residing in rural areas are often overlooked, while the questions of provision and quality of healthcare in those areas require urgent addressing. Hence, starting from a rural American context, heavily impacted by the policies of the Trump administration (and the lack thereof), this session of the Reading Group discusses the wide range of inequalities entrenched in rural healthcare provision. Parallels with other contexts around the globe, various pathways to addressing these inequalities and possible future action can all be topics of discussion.

Suggested Readings:

  • Iglehart, J.K. (2018) ‘The Challenging Quest to Improve Rural Health Care’, NEJM 378, 473-479.
  • Reimers-Hild, C. (2018) Strategic foresight, leadership, and the future of rural healthcare staffing in the United States’, JAAPA 31(5), 44–49.

Proposed by Lander Bosch

Session 6: 25th January 2019

From Health Research to Policy

One of the reasons for research on health inequalities is the expectation (or hope) that findings will inform policy. Does research inform policy? Kingdon has argued that policy windows open by the coupling of three streams: problem, policy and politics. The accumulation of evidence about health inequalities is therefore a necessary but not sufficient condition for policy change. Hence, this session addresses the question: ‘How do we define issues as “problems” that are amenable to policy interventions?’ One shift that needs to take place is that of thinking primarily about health care to encompass the social determinants of health. Another aspect of policy makers is to remember the role of policy actors as well as context, content and progress.

Suggested Readings:

  • Walt, G. and Gilson, L. (1994) ‘Reforming the health sector in developing countries: the central role of policy analysis’, Health Policy and Planning 9(4), 353-370.
  • Exworthy, M.; Blane, D. and Marmot, M. (2003) ‘Tackling Health Inequalities in the United Kingdom: The Progress and Pitfalls of Policy’, HSR: Health Services Research 38(6) – Part II, 1905-1922.

Proposed by Tennie Videler

Session 5: 11th January 2019

An Ecosystem Services Approach to Urban Public Health

In the section ‘World View’ in Nature (2018), Professor Xuemei Bai describes a fast-evolving development in the study of the interactions between ecosystems and cities. She argues that, rather than solely studying the impact cities have on ecosystems, recently, attention has shifted to researching in what ways ecology could contribute to urban environments. Chen and colleagues (2019) develop such ecosystem services approach for cities in a European context, highlighting its conceptual underpinnings, the opportunities it presents for improving urban public health, as well as its challenges.

In this first Lent term session of the Geographies of Health Reading Group, this ecosystem services approach to cities is discussed, focusing on its implications for public health outcomes. Its use in urban contexts in the Global North and South, possible research methods and potential challenges can all be topics of discussion.

Suggested readings:

  • Bai, X. (2018) ‘Advance the ecosystem approach in cities’, Nature 559, 7.
  • Chen, X.; De Vries, S.; Assmuth, T. et al. (2019) ‘Research challenges for cultural ecosystem services and public health in (peri)urban environment’, Science of the Total Environment 651, 2118–2129.

Proposed by Lander Bosch

Session 4: 23rd November 2018

Historical Mortality Data in England and Wales

Understanding the mortality transition in England and Wales (c.1850 onwards) remains a fundamental challenge for historical demographers (and health geographers!). Spatial and temporal complexities make comparisons difficult and there is debate over whether analysing aggregate datasets or more localised studies reveal more about the mortality transition. Williams and Mooney provide an overview of urban infant mortality decline specifically, also highlighting hypothesised reasons for this decline with select examples. In contrast, Gregory’s paper is an example of new digital and spatial techniques are being applied to historical aggregated mortality statistics. He also gives an interesting comparison to early twenty-first century mortality, linking to previous contemporary health geography issues we have explored this term.

In the reading group we will discuss the differences and similarities between the approaches these papers have used to investigate historical mortality data. It will also be worth considering the issues faced when using historical datasets and the benefits/limitations of using spatial techniques on these.

Suggested reading:

  • Gregory, I.N. (2009) ‘Comparisons between geographies of mortality and deprivation from the 1900s and 2001: spatial analysis of census and mortality statistics’, BMJ 339(b3454),
  • Williams, N. & Mooney, G. (1994) ‘Infant mortality in an ‘ Age of Great Cities’: London and the English provincial cities compared, c. 1840-1910′, Continuity and Change 9(2), 185-212.

Proposed by Sarah Rafferty

Session 3: 2nd November 2018

Plurality of Medical Environments in Sub-Saharan Africa

Across much of Sub-Saharan Africa, traditional medicine and faith healing often co-exist alongside biomedical treatments. This session aims to situate traditional medicine within a broader socio-cultural context to better understand the plural medical environments that exist across the region. Two papers by Dauskardt (1990) and Sams (2017) will be discussed during the session. Dauskardt (1990) provides an overview of the dynamic evolution and transformation of medical systems in urban South Africa during the 1900s, and Sams (2017) explores the way in which religious identities, culture, and interpretations of ‘modernity’ shape decisions about treating ‘everyday’ illnesses in Niger.

  • Dauskardt, R.P.A. (1990). The Changing Geography of Traditional Medicine: Urban Herbalism on the Witswatersrand, South Africa. GeoJournal 22(3), 275-283.
  • Sams, K. (2017). Engaging conceptions of identity in a context of medical pluralism: explaining treatment choices for everyday illness in Niger. Sociology of Health & Illness 39(7), 1100-1116.

Proposed by Momodou Jack

Session 2: 26th October 2018

Mad Pride and Mental Health Geography

The Mad Pride movement of mental health activists eschew diagnostic practices and argue that ‘madness’ is a stigmatised identity rather than a set of illnesses. Yet traditionally mental health geography has tended to rely on diagnostic categories, mapping these in relation to other ecological variables. This session will explore whether these two approaches can ever be brought into dialogue. We will read a brief article by a Mad Pride activist, a short paper excerpted from Gigg’s classic study of the geography of schizophrenia, and finally a critical analysis of the claims of the Mad Pride movement. Do we need to ditch diagnoses in our work? Or are there ways of conducting public health research that can still do justice to the experiences of ‘mad’ people?

  • Triest, A. (2012). Mad? There’s a movement for that. Shameless Magazine 21:20–1.
  • Giggs, J. A. & Cooper, J. E. (1987). Ecological Structure and the Distribution of Schizophrenia and Affective Psychoses in Nottingham. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 151(5), 627–633.
  • Rashed, M. A. (2018). In Defense of Madness: The Problem of Disability. The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy: A Forum for Bioethics and Philosophy of Medicine.

Session proposed by Ed Kiely. Please note that this session exceptionally runs 2-3pm.

Session 1: 12th October 2018

A Social Equity Lens in Qualitative Health Research

During the first session of the academic year, the extent to which and the way in which social inequity should be stressed in qualitative research on physical activity participation and the environment will be discussed. Three brief articles, from an exchange in ‘Health & Place’ on this topic, form the basis of our discussion. On the one hand, Stephanie Coen urges geographers to adopt an ‘equity lens’ when studying the relation between physical activity and place, as not doing so might lead public health agendas and interventions to exacerbate health inequalities. On the other, Russell Hitchings and Alan Latham warn for the blind spots that accompany such equity lens in qualitative geographical research. They argue that an overly critical academic stance might itself go too far, and hamper a constructive dialogue between academia and those involved in Public Health research and policy.

The three brief articles underlying this debate can be found via:

Proposed by Lander Bosch

Academic year 2017-18

Session 10: 25th May 2018

Differentials in Health

Arguably the most influential thinkers on differentials in health in recent years have been Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett (authors of The Spirit Level, 2009) on the one hand, and Michael Marmot (author of a number of books including The Status Syndrome, 2004 and The Health Gap, 2015) on the other. While they do not disagree – indeed Marmot and Wilkinson have collaborated – their seminal works take different approaches. Wilkinson and Pickett concentrate on inequality between countries and counties, in a cross-sectional approach, but Marmot’s work is mainly based on individual level, longitudinal data. This session of the reading group will examine a summary article by each – although of course participants are welcome also to read the larger books!

Suggested readings:

Topic proposed by Dr Alice Reid.

Session 9: 11th May 2018

Life expectancy and socioeconomic development – Graphical approaches

The ‘Preston curve’ has become famous in economics and demography for demonstrating both that national life expectancies show a strong if complex relationship to GDP per capita in cross-sectional analysis, and that for a given GDP per capita, life expectancy has risen over the twentieth century. Preston interpreted this to mean that most of the increases in life expectancy were therefore due to other factors apart from rising incomes.

Lutz & Kebede adopt Preston’s graphical approach to demonstrate that national life expectancy bears a particularly strong relationship to the average level of educational attainment (mean years of schooling), and that this relationship has been relatively constant over the last 50 years. They argue that this is because education drives both health and economic growth.

As Lutz and Kebede’s article demonstrates, Preston’s influential paper seems to bear multiple interpretations. During this session of the Geographies of Health Reading Group, we will discuss the issue of the determinants of mortality improvements. Moreover, the methods employed by Preston and Lutz & Kebede, and the importance of graphs to the impact of their messages can be interesting topics of discussion.

Suggested readings:

  • Lutz, W. and Kebede, E. (2018) ‘Education and Health: Redrawing the Preston Curve’, Population and Development Review, in press. Available at:
  • Preston, S.H. (2007) ‘The changing relation between mortality and level of economic development’, International Journal of Epidemiology 36(3), 484-490.

Session 8: 27th April 2018

Epidemics and Healthcare Needs Assessments

Large-scale epidemics continue to pose a significant, perhaps even increasing threat to societies around the globe. Starting from Elston et al.’s (2015) healthcare needs assessment during the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, the impact of such epidemic on population health and healthcare systems is discussed. This discussion is complemented with a methodological paper (Samarasundera et al. 2012) focusing on the wide range of geographical tools available to researchers in the study of primary healthcare and healthcare needs assessments.

Together, the articles may stimulate discussions around:

  • What are the consequences of health emergency situations on healthcare systems, and could these have been foreseen and mitigated in the future?
  • What are the most appropriate geographical tools to be used in healthcare needs assessment?

Article references:

  • Elston, J.T.W.; Moosa, A.J.; Moses, F. et al. (2015) ‘Impact of the Ebola outbreak on health systems and population health in Sierra Leone’, Journal of Public Health 38(4), 673–678.
  • Samarasundera, E.; Walsh, T.; Cheng T. et al. (2012) ‘Methods and tools for geographical mapping and analysis in primary health care’, Primary Health Care Research & Development 13, 10-21.

(Topic proposed by Tennie Videler)

Session 7: 9th March 2018

The expansion and compression of mortality

As life expectancy among the very old continues to rise, there is an important question about whether additional years of life are lived in a healthy state (compression of morbidity) or disabled state (expansion of morbidity). The first proposed paper summarises the main theories about the compression and expansion of morbidity. The second presents some evidence and forecasts relating to the UK.

Manton, K. (1982) ‘Changing Concepts of Morbidity and Mortality in the Elderly Population’, The Milbank Memorial Fund Quarterly. Health and Society, 60(2), 183-244. Available at:

Jagger et al. (2006) ‘Compression or expansion of disability? Forecasting Future Disability Levels under Changing Patterns of Diseases’, Wanless Social Care Review. Available at:

(Proposed by Dr Alice Reid)

Session 6: 9th February 2018

Dealing with Disturbing Data: How does health research affect researchers?

As health researchers we spend much of our time thinking about disease, death and bodily decay. While the ideal is that we will remain critically detached and objective in dealing without our data, these topics can be emotive and troubling. Traditionally we have focussed on protecting our participants from harm, without giving too much attention to the potential negative impacts on us, the researchers. Quite simply, what does researching topics that can be depressing and distressing do to us?

The first article (Fincham et al 2008) is case study that demonstrates how encounters with disturbing secondary data can impact researcher wellbeing. The second (Kumar & Cavallaro 2017) proposes a conceptual framework to ameliorate the negative psychological and emotional effects of research.

  • Fincham, B., Scourfield, J. & Langer, S. (2008) The Impact of Working with Disturbing Secondary Data: Reading Suicide Files in a Coroner’s Office. Qualitative Health Research 18(6): 853–862.
  • Kumar, S. & Cavallaro, L. (2017) Researcher Self-Care in Emotionally Demanding Research: A Proposed Conceptual Framework. Qualitative Health Research Online.

These articles may stimulate discussions around:

  1. Which risks to researcher wellbeing are specific to health research? How could these be addressed?
  2. How should our emotional responses be accounted for in our research itself?

(Topic proposed by Ed Kiely)

Session 5: 26th January 2018

Geographies of the life-course: Migration and the transition to adulthood

Life transitions are located in and move through a range of geographical contexts and scales. Both spatial transfer and the reason for migrating are associated with variability in physical, social and health outcomes for women and men. However, the ways in which spatial relocation and place-based exposures are associated with age, specifically the social and biological transition to adulthood, requires further research.

The first article (Findlay, McCollum, Coulter, & Gayle, 2015) proposes an integrative conceptual framework for geographical research on mobility and migration across the life-course. The second article (Beegle & Poulin, 2013) uses longitudinal data to understand the gendered life-course pathways of rural-out migration of youth in contemporary Malawi.

  • Findlay, A., McCollum, D., Coulter, R., & Gayle, V. (2015). New mobilities across the life course: A framework for analysing demographically linked drivers of migration. Population, Space and Place, 21(4), 390–402.
  • Beegle, K., & Poulin, M. (2013). Migration and the transition to adulthood in contemporary Malawi. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 648(1), 38–51.

These articles may stimulate discussions around:

  1. What hypotheses can be generated from the geographical life-course framework on transitions to adulthood in the global south?
  2. Does migration in the global south support socio-economic mobility, or does it reproduce social and gender inequality?

(Topic proposed by Dr Akanksha Marphatia)

Session 4: 1st December 2017

Every day, when leaving their homes, billions of people set foot in an environment that strongly impacts their health. Outdoor air pollution kills 3.3 million people every single year, mostly in urban areas. This is more than the annual number of deaths caused by HIV, malaria and influenza combined. As the relation between ambient air pollution and health evokes many questions, the fourth session of the Geographies of Health Reading Group studies this topic, starting from two main questions and related suggested readings.

The first one is: “Is outdoor physical activity still the best buy in public health?”

Suggested reading: Tianio, M.; de Nazelle, A.J.; Götschi, T. et al. (2016) ‘Can air pollution negate the health benefits of cycling and walking?’, Preventive Medicine 87, 233-236.

The second one is: “Does air pollution contribute to health inequalities?”

Suggested reading: O’Neill, M.S.; Jerett, M.; Kawachi, I. et al. (2003) ‘Health, Wealth, and Air Pollution: Advancing Theory and Methods’, Environmental Health Perspectives 111(16), 1861-1870.

Session 3: 17th November 2017

Can medicine cure racism?
Historically the biomedical sciences haven’t addressed social problems such as racism, sexism and economic inequality. Despite their demonstrable impacts on human health, inquiry into these issues has been largely left to the social sciences. Now some scholars are attempting to change this. By combining the research techniques of critical geographical research and biomedicine, they hope to both improve the efficacy of public health interventions, and broaden the scope of medical inquiry and intervention. But how successful can this endeavour ever be?
The reading group’s discussion will start from two articles – the first (Krieger 2003) outlines a possible methodology for engaging with social problems scientifically, while the second (Neely and Nading 2017) offers a series of case studies that attempt to combine geographical, public health and biomedical analysis:
1) Krieger, N. (2008) Does Racism Harm Health? Did Child Abuse Exist Before 1962? On Explicit Questions, Critical Science, and Current Controversies: An Ecosocial Perspective. American Journal of Public Health 98(Supplement 1): S20-S25. Doi: 10.2105/AJPH.98.Supplement_1.S20
2) Neely, A. and Nading, A.M. (2017) Global Health From the Outside: The Promise of Place-Based Research. Health and Place (45): 55-63. Doi: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2017.03.001
These articles might stimulate a discussion on questions such as:
  • Is it possible for ‘objective’ science to offer solutions to ‘subjective’ social problems?
  • To what extent can we combine disciplines with different epistemological foundations?

Session 2: 3rd November 2017

Migration and its public health impacts in host communities

Both in academic writing and the public opinion, the influx of migrants and refugees is often portrayed as a public health threat, potentially importing severe infectious diseases such as the Ebola virus, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C. There is growing evidence that this presumed threat is largely based on irrational beliefs, in which sentiments of xenophobia and latent racism often play a role. This, however, does not imply that there are no public health issues related to the arrival of migrants to host countries. Policymakers and healthcare providers should be aware of the vulnerabilities mobile populations face, especially when confronted with poor, unhygienic living circumstances, interrupted vaccination schemes for young children, cultural and linguistic barriers to access health care services, additional stress and mental health issues…

To address this topic of migration and (public) health, the reading group’s discussion will start from two articles offering different views on the matter:

  1. Gushulak, B.D., Weekers, J. and MacPherson, D.W. (2010) ‘Migrants and emerging public health issues in a globalized world: threats, risks and challenges, an evidence-based framework’, Emerging Health Threats Journal 2(e10). Doi: 10.3134/ehtj.09.010.
  2. Rechel, B.; Mladovsky, P.; Ingleby, D.; Mackenbach, J.P. and McKee, M. (2013) ‘Migration and health in an increasingly diverse Europe’, The Lancet 381, 1235–45. Doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(12)62086-8.

Through their opposite perspectives, the articles might stimulate a discussion on questions such as:

  • How can one ensure that healthcare systems are capable of effectively responding to the health requirements of incoming populations?
  • Could academic research be used to address the public opinion on migration and the perceived (public) health threats it poses?

Session 1: 20th October 2017

The topic of the first session of the year will be the concept of ‘wellbeing’. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 3 aims for ‘Good health and well-being for all at all ages’. Wellbeing has become a key theme in research and a priority on the public health agenda. However, the question arises whether there exists a (globally applicable) definition of wellbeing, and how it can be measured in practice.

The first proposed paper to start and support the discussion on this question is a reference work by Fleuret and Atkinson (2007). It offers a review of the theoretical approaches to and challenges for operationalising the concept of wellbeing in both research and policy. Moreover, it introduces several fundamental aspects of health geography to readers who may not be as well acquainted with the field.

The second article by Foley and Kistemann (2015) is an illustration of health geographical research on how wellbeing relates to the physical environment. The potential of promoting human wellbeing through visual landscapes such as ‘healthy green spaces’ is well-established. The proposed article, however, focuses on a more recent development, namely ‘healthy blue space’. These are spaces where water is at the core of the landscape. The authors provide insights into the relation between blue spaces and the health and wellbeing of people who actively engage in them.

  • Fleuret, S. and Atkinson, S. (2007) ‘Wellbeing, Health and Geography: A Critical Review and Research Agenda’, New Zealand Geographer 63, 106-118. doi:10.1111/j.1745-7939.2007.00093.x.
  • Foley, R. and Kistemann, T. (2015) ‘Blue Space Geographies: Enabling Health in Place’, Health and Place 35, 157-165.

These articles can stimulate a discussion on the meaning of wellbeing, how we should implement, operationalise and measure this concept, and the (dis)advantages to using it. The targets of SDG3 could be an interesting element to discuss in this respect.

Academic year 2016-17

Session 11: 20th June 2017

The last reading group of this year focuses on residential mobility. Two articles are suggested:

  • South, S.J. and Crowder, K.D. (1998) ‘Leaving the ‘Hood: Residential Mobility between Black, White and Integrated Neighborhoods’, American Sociological Review 63(1), pp.17-26.
  • McPeake, J. (1998) ‘Religion and Residential Search Behaviour in the Belfast Urban Area’, Housing Studies 13(4), pp.527-548.

Session 10: 26th May 2017

The focus of this week’s session is urban segregation and its impacts. The proposed article is:

  • Bailey, N.; van Gent, W.P.C. and Musterd, S. (2017) ‘Remaking Urban Segregation: Processes of Income Sorting and Neighbourhood Change’, Population, Space and Place 23, e2013.

Session 9: 21st April 2017

This week, we are looking at the role of ‘place’ in health research. The following articles guide the discussion:

  • Cummins, S.; Curtis, S.; Diez-Roux, A.V. and Macintyre, S. (2007) ‘Understanding and representing ‘place’ in health research: A relational approach’, Social Science & Medicine 65, 1825-1838.
  • Villanueva, K.; Badland, H.; Kvalsig, A. et al. (2016) ‘Can the Neighborhood Built Environment Make a Difference in Children’s Development? Building the Research Agenda to Create Evidence for Place-Based Children’s Policy’, Academic Pediatrics 16(1), 10-19.

Session 8: 10th March 2017

We will be discussing the health services and their utilisation this week:

Session 7: 24th February 2017

We will be discussing the attached articles, which both relate to healthcare markets.

The first is Hart’s classic 1971 paper on the inverse care law (the availability of good medical care tends to vary inversely with the need for it in the population served). Among other things, Hart makes fascinating comments about the introduction of the NHS, which occurred while he was a student.

The other reading is a section from Angrist and Pischke, Mastering Metrics (2014). This examines the effect of health care pricing on both the take-up of care and health outcomes, in two US experiments (RAND and Oregon) which randomly allocated health insurance to groups of people.

  • Julian Tudor Hart. 27th February 1971. The Inverse Care Law. The Lancet.
  • Joshua D. Angrist and Jörn-Steffen Pischke. 2014. Mastering ‘Metrics: The Path from Cause to Effect. ISBN 9781400852383. Pages 17-31.

Session 6: 30th January 2017

We will be discussing the following:

Session 5: 10th January 2017

This week’s readings cover the role of social and economic hierarchies in disease rates.

One is a commentary article from Michael Marmot at UCL (ran the Whitehall Studies) and the other looks at how the influence of professional status on health varies between men and women.

  • Michael Marmot, Status syndrome, Significance, December 2004.
  • Amanda Sacker, David Firth, Ray Fitzpatrick, Kevin Lynch, Mel Bartley. Comparing health inequality in men and women: prospective study of mortality 1986-96. BMJ 2000;320:1303–7 doi:10.1136/bmj.320.7245.1303

Session 4: 14th December 2016

This week’s meeting will discuss two contrasting articles related to obesity:

The first one, by Evans, is a rather unconventional analysis of the obesity discourse and frames it within the critical cultural turn in obesity research. It is especially directed towards (medical) geographers and also carries a historical perspective.

The second article, by Harrison and colleagues, follows a more classic, mainstream approach in the development of a model of drivers of childhood obesity, keeping the main focus on the individual.

  • Evans, B. (2006) ‘Gluttony or Sloth: Critical Geographies of Bodies and Morality in (Anti)Obesity Policy’, Area 38(3), 259-267.
  • Harrison, K.; Bost, K.K.; McBride, B.A. et al. (2011) ‘Toward a developmental conceptualization of contributors to overweight and obesity in childhood: the Six-Cs model’, Child Development Perspectives 5(1), 50-58.

Session 3: 25th November 2016

We will be discussing the persistence and causes of social differentials in health, based on the following readings:

  • Robert Woods and Naomi Williams. 1995. Must the gap widen before it can be narrowed: long-term trends in social class mortality differentials. Continuity and Change 10(1): 105-137. doi:10.1017/S0268416000002514
  • Bruce Link and Jo Phelan. 1995. Social conditions as fundamental causes of disease. Journal of health and social behavior Extra Issue: 80-94. URL:
  • Sean Clouston, Marcie Rubin, Jo Phelan and Bruce Link. 2016. A social history of disease: contextualizing the rise and fall of social inequalities in cause-specific mortality. Demography 53: 1631-1656. doi:10.1007/s13524-016-0495-5

Session 2: 4th November 2016

We will talk about discrimination, segregation and health, based on reading the following:

  • Douglas Massey. 2004. Segregation and stratification: A biosocial perspective. Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race, 1:7–25. doi:10.10170S1742058X04040032
  • Vickie Mays, Susan Cochran and Namdi Barnes. 2007. Race, race-based discrimination, and health outcomes among African Americans. Annual Review of Psychology. 58:201-225. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.57.102904.190212

Session 1: 21st October 2016

The first session will look at the Barker hypothesis/fetal origins/DoHAD approach, which was inspired by the observation of geographic differentials in health.

  • Barker. 2007. The origins of the developmental origins theory. Journal of Internal Medicine 261(5) doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2796.2007.01809.x
  • Almond and Currie. 2011. Killing me softly: the fetal origins hypothesis. Journal of Economic Perspectives 25(3):153-172 doi:10.1257/jep.25.3.153