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Caroline Charlton

PhD student

Health Inequalities

Fuse, Northumbria University

Project title

Increasing timely cervical screening participation in areas of high socioeconomic deprivation. 

Project summary

This project will appraise existing interventions by exploring effective behaviour change strategies and mechanisms of change associated with cervical screening uptake (e.g. systematic review). We then aim to extend and refine the toolbox of intervention strategies (Wearn, 2020) through a series of stakeholder engagement activities employing diverse validated methods (e.g. Think-aloud protocols, Delphi studies) to build upon stakeholders’ existing knowledge, capabilities and experiences, and accurately assess feasibility and acceptability of this approach. We will also combine online and community-based studies to further explore mechanisms of action and associations between co-produced strategies and cervical screening participation. There will be a strong focus on public involvement throughout, with the inclusion of a reference group of women living in areas of high deprivation to inform and steer project progress and outcomes.

Research interests

Health inequalities, behaviour change, health prevention, Intervention design

Caroline's Q&A

  • What has been your career journey so far?

    My background is within psychology with degrees in BSc Psychology and MSc Health psychology. After this, I joined the Behavioural Insights team within Public Health England (PHE), transferring to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) when PHE merged into the UKHSA. During this time, I also was a research assistant at Northumbria University working on a project regarding the implementation of a public health strategy.

  • Why did you choose to do a PhD in public health research?

    My Msc thesis was focused upon understanding young women’s interpretation of the current cervical screening leaflet and identifying barriers and facilitators to engaging with the leaflet and the screening service as a whole. During this, my eyes were opened to the vast amount of health inequalities that exist, not just within cervical screening, but in society as a whole. This PhD gives me the chance to further understand and explore these inequalities within cervical screening, and provides the opportunity for my research to hopefully make an impact and influence future policy for change.

  • What is your research focused on?

    Cervical screening uptake within socioeconomic deprived communities

  • Why is it important?

    Cervical screening uptake has often fell below the 80% target set by the NHS, particularly within communities experiencing high socioeconomic deprivation. The COVID-19 pandemic has only increased the levels on non-attendance to the screening service. With 99.8% of cervical cancer cases being preventable, research into understanding non-attendance and how we can develop tools to support future attendance is crucial.

  • What do you like about being a part of the NIHR School for Public Health Research?

    Being a part of the NIHR School for Public Health gives me a sense of community, provides excellent support, networking opportunities, and the potential to further develop my skills via exciting training opportunities.

  • What skills have you learnt and/or are hoping to learn as part of your PhD?

    I hope to build upon my current skills within behavioural analysis and develop new skills regarding new methodologies and statistical analysis.

  • What do you hope to do after completing your PhD?

    After the completion of my PhD, I aim to continue working within public health, either within a post-doctoral opportunity, or within industry.

Useful Links

Caroline Charlton — Northumbria University Research Portal 

Twitter Handle – @CarolineCharlt6 

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