SPHR - ARC North Thames PhD student
Public mental health programme, Health inequalities theme
University College London (UCL)
Sarah's interested in social determinants of health and health inequalities as a matter of social justice as well as health. Combining the legal and health perspectives on this has provided a unique angle for her work, and Sarah has become interested in interdisciplinary approaches to research more generally. Sarah uses mixed methods techniques in her research, combining quantitative and qualitative data.
What has been your career journey so far?
After graduating with a Masters in Public Health, I worked for two years in the charity sector before becoming an academic research assistant. My first research post was at the Imperial College Patient Experience Research Centre, where I worked on NHS patient surveys. Two years later I moved to the UCL Centre for Access to Justice, which was my first introduction to the law and legal services research
Why did you choose to do a PhD in public health research?
My interest in the topic grew out of my previous work in the UCL Faculty of Laws, where I had learnt a lot and enjoyed working in a completely new area. There was lots of scope for further study as the topic is quite under-explored, so I developed a research proposal combining my interest in both health and law. Bringing together the two disciplines has made for a really interesting and unique project.
What is your research focused on?
I am studying how healthcare and legal services work together to deliver joined up care for patients. I am drawing on international experience, as well as studying practice in the UK more closely.
Why is it important?
Social welfare legal issues are closely linked with health: often the issues we refer to as ‘social determinants of health’ have an underlying legal dimension. By providing legal assistance for patients, we can tackle the root causes of ill health and inequalities.
What do you like about being a part of the NIHR School for Public Health Research?
It’s been good to make connections with other PhD students working in a similar area, and I have felt well supported by the SPHR throughout my project.
What skills have you learnt and/or are hoping to learn as part of your PhD?
Alongside my core subject areas, I am learning about another field that is new to me – Implementation Science – which is guiding my research methods. I have developed new skills for implementation research, and have started to use theoretical approaches for the first time.
What do you hope to do after completing your PhD?
I’d like to continue in research as I enjoy the challenge – there’s always something new to be learnt and discovered. It’s also good to be contributing to positive change, which keeps me engaged and inspired in my day-to-day work.