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Jennie Parnham

PhD student

Children, young people & families programme, Health inequalities theme

Imperial College London

Research Interests

Public Health Nutrition; inequalities in diet and public health policy which aims to reduce that socioeconomic gradient in dietary intake.

Jennie's Q&A

  • What has been your career journey so far?

    Out of a fascination with food and health, I studied Nutrition at the University of Leeds for my undergraduate degree. I loved the topic. Nutrition is such broad subject that my studies included aspects of physics, chemistry, biology and epidemiology. Although the biochemical aspects of the diet-gut axis were interesting, I was gripped by public health and inequalities in dietary intake. This interest in the social side of health led me to study a Master’s in Social Epidemiology at UCL and pursue a career in research.

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

    It struck me that there were two reoccurring themes in the research I came across in my studies. Firstly, the shocking yet consistent evidence of the social determinants of health leading to poor health outcomes in the most disadvantaged. Secondly, many public health interventions aiming to improve health or minimise health inequalities are rarely sufficiently evaluated to know if they had a meaningful impact. Following from this, I was inspired to work in public health research and help to give actionable evidence to public health practitioners to address theses issues.

  • What is your research focused on?

    I am evaluating public health policies which are focused on the nutrition of low-income young children in the UK. These policies include the Healthy Start voucher programme and the Universal Infant Free School Meal programme.

  • Why is it important?

    My research is important because getting a healthy diet in the early stages of development is important, yet many low-income children do not have access to healthy food. Poor diet in early childhood is part of a chain of determinants which contribute to the health inequalities we see in society today. The government has some policies which aim to address this issue, yet they were hastily implemented with no thought of how to evaluate their effect. It is vital that we know our public resources are being spent in the most efficient and effective way to address this issue.

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

    It has been great to be part of an encouraging and supportive cohort of PhD students around England. A PhD at many times can be overwhelming and isolating, especially in current pandemic, so it’s been great to have people to share this experience with. Also, its really exciting to be part of an organisation with great aims and close ties to public health practitioners, I feel I am part of a positive new wave of public health research.

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

    In terms of core research skills, I have developed my understanding of quantitative policy evaluation methods, including teaching myself R (it really is a steep learning curve!). I feel I have developed many other skills such as disseminating my research (presentation skills, producing manuscripts), collaborating on projects and having a greater understanding of the realities of conducting public health research.

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

    I would love to get a post-doctoral position and continue to have the privilege of researching topics which inspire me. Would anyone reading this like to give me a job?

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