Public mental health programme, Places & communities programme, Health inequalities theme
University College London (UCL)
Exploring the longitudinal impact of housing insecurity on mental health and wellbeing in the UK
The gender dimensions of mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK
Social and spatial epidemiology of mental health, and the impact of deprivation on common mental health disorders
Public Involvement & Engagement
Kate plans to work with peer researchers at the McPin Foundation for her housing insecurity project. Here Kate will gain insight from individuals with lived experience of housing insecurity and homelessness, which will strengthen the validity and relevance of her project.
What has been your career journey so far?
I completed my Honours Bachelor of Arts in Bioethics and Health Studies at the University of Toronto. Originally setting out to study neuroscience, I realised partway through my degree that my interest lay in addressing health at the systems level, rather than treating individuals, and discovered my passion for public health. After graduating, I spent a year working for a private non-for-profit research institute in Athens, Greece, where I contributed to the development of EU Commission-funded public health interventions. I returned to academia to complete my MSc in Population Health at UCL; my dissertation used cohort data to examine the association between neighbourhood social cohesion and cognitive function in Central and Eastern Europe.
Why did you choose to do a pre-doctoral fellowship in public health research?
Upon the completion of my MSc, I sought an opportunity to put my learning into practice and continue to develop my research focus before embarking on a PhD. I was very keen to be an NIHR SPHR pre-doctoral fellow, as the position presents a unique early career opportunity to receive training and contribute to critical public health research. I believe the quality of human life and the strength of our social, political, and economic systems are best tested by how well they maintain population health equity; I have chosen a career in public health as it plays a crucial role in evaluating the impact of such systems, and intervening to prevent disparities. I was particularly excited about the opportunity to be involved in the Public Mental Health programme, as I am passionate about addressing the determinants of disparities in mental health outcomes.
What is your research focus?
My research is focused on mental health inequalities, in particular the systemic nature of these inequalities. I aim to use quantitative methodology to model the impact of social, political, and economic systems on common mental health disorders. I am especially focused on in the experience of chronic exclusion from these intersecting systems, in particular housing and job insecurity. I am also interested in spatial epidemiology, and the opportunity to leverage neighbourhood resilience and mutual support in urban centres to improve public mental health for marginalised communities.
Why is it important?
While effective treatment is crucial, it is equally important to address mental health disparities at the point of more distal determinants. Mental health problems occur along a socioeconomic gradient, leaving vulnerable and marginalised populations particularly at risk. Material-need insecurities and social exclusion can lead to long-term mental health problems, often interacting to magnify the negative impact. Public health research can elucidate the nature of these systemic barriers to mental health, and present opportunities for effective intervention. In the era of the Covid-19 pandemic, such barriers have been laid bare, and precarity is a reality for increasing numbers in the UK; public health is essential to prevent widespread and long-term psychological distress.
What are you looking forward to during your time with NIHR School for Public Health Research?
I am most looking forward to the collaborative nature of research within the SPHR. Since the fellowship began, I have connected with many of the other SPHR fellows, and it has been a pleasure to share ideas and support with my brilliant peers. In a similar vein, I am excited at the opportunity afforded by the SPHR to work with and learn from a diverse and esteemed network of experts, both at my host institution, and beyond. As a researcher at the beginning of my career, it is incredibly valuable to have access to mentors that offer patient and thoughtful advice on project development and career progression. I am also looking forward to expanding my knowledge and skills through the generous training portion of the fellowship programme.
What skills are you hoping to gain by the end?
My background is mostly quantitative, so I am hoping to gain some experience in qualitative research, in order to strengthen my ability to conduct mixed methods projects. I am hoping to gain experience working with public health practitioners and, in particular, peer researchers, as I strongly believe academic research about mental health should centre the voices of individuals with lived experience of mental health problems, in order to have the greatest positive impact. Finally, I hope to expand my quantitative skill set, including gaining experience in advanced statistical methods such as structural equation modelling and multi-level modelling.
What do you hope to do after completing your fellowship?
After completing my fellowship, I plan to begin a PhD in the epidemiology of mental health. I aim to build on my research and skills developed over the course of my fellowship to carry out an impactful PhD project, one that addresses systemic inequalities and is grounded in relevance to public health practice and vulnerable communities. I plan to continue a career in academic research, with the hope of becoming a professor of epidemiology; in this role I would continue to contribute to crucial public health research while mentoring and sharing my passion with the next generation of researchers.
Dotsikas, K., Osborn, D., Walters, K. et al. Trajectories of housing affordability and mental health problems: a population-based cohort study. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-022-02314-x
McGrath M, Duncan F, Dotsikas K, Baskin C, Crosby L, Gnani S, Hunter RM, Kaner E, Kirkbride JB, Lafortune L, Lee C, Oliver E, Osborn DP, Walters KR, Dykxhoorn J; School for Public Health Research Public Mental Health Programme. Effectiveness of community interventions for protecting and promoting the mental health of working-age adults experiencing financial uncertainty: a systematic review. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2021 Apr 30;75(7):665–73. doi: 10.1136/jech-2020-215574 Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33931550; PMCID: PMC8223661.
Additional funding and grants
Sep. 2020 – Jan. 2022 Exploring and understanding access to community-based mental health and addiction services for service users experiencing severe and multiple disadvantage and providers in Newcastle and Gateshead in times of extreme adversity (Co-applicant) |Funder: NIHR School for Public Health Research (SPHR) – ResNet ECR Funding |Funding value: £25,627.44
Adams, E. A., Muir, C., Smiles, C., Dotsikas, K., Crosby, L., Widnall, E., Ramsay, S., Kaner, E., Burrows, M., Broadbridge, A., Reed, C.