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Public Health, Wellness at Work and Behavioural Medicine

PhD MPhil MSc by research

School - School of Health Sciences

Subject area - Public Health

Start Date(s): September, January, May


MSc by Research (One year full-time or two years part-time) 

Master of Philosophy (MPhil; one year full-time or two years part-time) 

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD; three years full-time or five years part-time)

In Brief:

  • Part-time study option
  • Distance Learning
  • International students can apply

Subject Overview

Health, Wellbeing and Wellness at Work

This research area provides an opportunity for you to learn about various contemporary aspects of health and wellbeing with respect to working populations and the workplace context. You will get the opportunity to work with a range of academics who specialize in specific aspects of workplace health such as physiotherapists (vocational rehabilitation, musculoskeletal intervention, evaluation of workplace health interventions); public health scientists (workplace health interventions; measuring health and wellbeing at work); exercise and health scientists (promoting physical activity, nutrition and health and wellbeing programmes at work and amongst working populations) and other disciplines such as facilities management (redesigning the workplace to facilitate health at work). This research degree will enable you to research an aspect of workplace health which may have important relevance for future workplace policy and the design of workplaces and workplace interventions.

Public Health Interventions & Epidemiology

Led by Professor Pauline Adair, this broad research area provides an opportunity for you to experience the importance of evidence-based public health practice and the design, development and evaluation of contemporary public health interventions. The range of interventions under investigation might be focused on a specific topic (chronic illness, behaviour change, physical activity, alcohol misuse) or a health issue within a certain setting (such as schools or communities).  Some students may be interested in contributing to our specialist research areas of oral health behaviour, long term conditions such as asthma and cystic fibrosis, sexual health, alcohol misuse, physical activity etc. by carrying out a study of the epidemiology of relevant behaviours (e.g. sexual risk behaviour, alcohol consumption, exercise) or health outcomes (eg. Sexually transmitted infections, alcohol-related harm, obesity, health behaviour change, quality of life).

In the national Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) 2008 more than 80% of the School of Health Sciences research was ranked as of ‘international quality’. Within the UK and Europe we are in the top 5% of research groups based in academic departments related to podiatry, physiotherapy, prosthetics, orthotics, occupational therapy, sports science and sports rehabilitation. 

You will also be able to do this PhD by distance learning with an October or April start date. 

Entry Requirements

1st class or upper second class undergraduate degree 

Masters degree is preferred but not essential.

However, applicants without a Masters degree should provide evidence of previous research methods training.

APEL – We welcome applications from students who may not have formal/traditional entry criteria but who have relevant experience or the ability to pursue the course successfully.

The Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) process could help you to make your work and life experience count.

The APL process can be used for entry onto courses or to give you exemptions from parts of your course.

Two forms of APL may be used for entry: the Accreditation of Prior Certificated Learning (APCL) or the Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL).

English requirement for non-UK/ EU students

Overall IELTS score of at least 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any one element. We offer four entry points – October, January, April and July. Applications can be submitted at any point within the year.

Applicant Profile

You should have a first degree that provides a foundation in the basic principles of health and wellbeing. This could include psychology, nursing, physiotherapy, sports science and other applied science degrees as well as social science degrees such as social policy.  Preferably you will also have a Masters degree for example an MPH or MSc in Public Health or other similarly-related degree e.g. MSc in Physical Activity and Health Sciences; MSc in Physiotherapy.

Evidence of ability to study and critically appraise literature independently is essential and candidates with a Masters qualification are preferred. Experience of research involving human participants is also preferable but is not essential.

As a student embarking on a postgraduate research degree you will be assigned a supervisory team, to help guide and mentor you throughout your time at the University. However, you are ultimately expected to take responsibility for managing your learning and will be expected to initiate discussions, ask for the help that you need and be proactive in your approach to study.

All students will be required to attend for an interview.

International Students - Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

International Students are required by the Home Office and/or the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) to apply for an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) Certificate before they begin studying their course. You may need to obtain an ATAS Certificate before you come to the UK in order for you to comply with Home Office regulations. Please refer to your offer conditions.

You can find out if your programme requires an ATAS by checking the FCO website at with your JACS code which will be on your offer letter should you choose to make an application. If you cannot find it please contact International Conversion team at If you have any queries relating directly to ATAS please contact the ATAS team on

You can apply for your ATAS Certificate via this link:

Current Student Research

Research Topics

Anna Cooper – 3rd year PhD student

Title of PhD: Effectiveness of a Global Oral Health Programme targeting 6-7 year old primary schoolchildren in NW England, UK
Overall this research aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of a pre-designed school oral health programme (SOHP), aimed at increasing none/once daily brushing to twice daily brushing. A unique aspect of this thesis was the use of a child-centred mixed method evaluation design. The research piloted new research tools (n=97, in 3 schools) within dental public health to effectively elicit children’s responses, and test if intervention materials were suitable for the target age and use in the UK schools. Following this a complex SOHP targeting 6–7 year olds, was evaluated using a one-month matched cluster control trial (n=258, in 8 intervention & 5 control schools), with a 6 month follow-up. Finally, the research validated a children’s self-report questionnaire (n=108, in 5 schools) against an objective measure (data loggers) in a one-month test-retest validation study. Using child-centred methods 6–7 year olds are capable of being active participants in research, and effectively expressing current levels knowledge and behaviours regarding OH, hygiene and nutrition. The use of data loggers has the potential to aid evaluations by complementing self-report and being able to provide objective feedback to children, parents and local stakeholders.

Louise Robinson – 1st year MPhil student

Title of MPhil: What factors predict recruitment and retention to pediatric randomised controlled trials?
It is well documented that many clinical trials are stopped or extended due to issues surrounding recruitment and retention of participants.  Trials involving children and their families can pose other, specific problems around recruitment and retention.  Being able to predict which participants are more likely to withdraw from a trial could allow researchers to develop specific recruitment strategies. A systematic review of literature will be carried out to determine existing research and evidence on predictors of recruitment and retention in pediatric trials.  This study will identify, evaluate and summarise findings of relevant studies. A retrospective qualitative study will be conducted to determine whether there are any predicting factors for attrition of participants in oral health trials.  This will focus on an evaluation and characteristics of ‘drop-outs’ in existing research.  Studies will be analysed and compared for significant differences between participants who remain on trials and those who ‘drop-out’ of studies.  Particular attention will be paid to the relevance of RCT setting as a predictor of recruitment success.  Practical recommendations for maximising recruitment and retention to oral health trials involving children and families will be made.

Tamara Brown – 1st year MPhil student

Title of MPhil: Vocational Rehabilitation and cost benefit analysis
Sickness absence results in a large economic cost, not only for the organisation that the individual works for but for the individual and the wider society. Dame Carol Black estimated the annual economic cost of ill-health, in terms of working days lost and worklessness, exceeds £100 billion: equivalent to the annual running costs of the NHS (Black, 2008). As Vocational Rehabilitation Services and concepts are being increasingly used and encouraged as a method to address sickness absence levels, both within the private and public sector, it is necessary to further explore the effectiveness of Vocational Rehabilitation Services and the impacts of the use of Vocational Rehabilitation interventions on the various stakeholders (public and private organisations, individuals and society). The aims of my MPhil are to identify the outcomes of a vocational rehabilitation intervention on the organisation, the individual and society, and to develop an existing cost-benefit analysis tool to encompass fiscal, economic and societal outcomes of vocational rehabilitation interventions. Thus, providing a tool allowing for comparisons of interventions and modes of interventions, providing an aid for decision making, whilst allowing for decisions to be based not only on the economics but also from a well-being and utilitarian perspective.

GTA Student Profiles

James Chandler – 2nd year PhD student and GTA

Title of PhD: Measuring health and wellbeing in Social Enterprises
I have been a GTA at Salford for just over a year now and have found the experience to be, above all, a rewarding one. The scheme is essentially a studentship which covers tuition fees and provides a bursary in exchange for teaching responsibilities. My teaching duties have involved lecturing and holding seminars in addition to providing students with informal feedback on their assignments. Overall I think GTAs get a very good deal out of it: tuition fees and living expenses are covered in exchange for teaching services which will ultimately benefit the GTA and help to develop their career. In comparison to a conventional PhD (i.e. no teaching), I think that while the GTA route might be more challenging, it is certainly more rewarding and as a result worthwhile. My research looks at the issue of workplace health. I am researching how organisational factors impact on employee health and wellbeing at work. Specifically, I am investigating the impact that working for a social enterprise might have on employee health and wellbeing. Social enterprises are businesses that trade for a social purpose; they are specifically set up to address social problems and use their profits to pursue these goals rather than enrich shareholders. My hypothesis is that working for a social enterprise will have a positive impact on employee health and wellbeing given the nature of the work they do and their emphasis on people rather than profit. I use both qualitative (interviews) and quantitative (questionnaire) methods to investigate this.

Alex Clarke-Cornwell – 1st year PhD student

Title of PhD: Increasing healthy lifestyle behaviours and quality of life in those with or at risk of chronic conditions – a community based participatory approach
Interventions to change lifestyle behaviours such as smoking cessation, alcohol reduction, physical activity and a healthy diet, are imperative in the prevention and management of the current burden of chronic disease.  Chronic diseases are a major burden to the individual, society and the health service, and the impact of these conditions will continue to increase alongside increasing life expectancy in the UIK.  Preventative services to control risk behaviours is one way to reduce the morbidity and mortality of chronic disease, and in turn improve health and quality of life. Low levels of physical activity, unhealthy diets and a high prevalence of obesity result in many people being at risk of chronic disease.  Changes to these modifiable risk factors can have a powerful effect on the burden of chronic disease. The aims of my PhD are to develop an understanding of health lifestyle behaviours and their influence on chronic disease, behaviour change and healthy lifestyle interventions in the community; and to develop and implement an intervention to change lifestyle behaviour using an evidence based approach, which can be delivered at the community level to those at risk of chronic conditions.

Training and Skills

All postgraduate research students are expected to attend the College’s research methods seminars during your first year of study, covering subjects such as conducting a literature review, methods of data collection, research governance and ethics, and analysis, presentation, interpretation and rigour in qualitative research. Students are also eligible to attend all sessions on the Research Methods in Public Health and Statistics & Epidemiology modules (core elements of the MSc in Public Health).

In addition, the University offers all postgraduate research students an extensive range of free training activities to help develop your research and transferable skills. The Salford Postgraduate Research Training Programme (SPoRT) has been designed to equip researchers both for your university studies and for your future careers whether in academia, elsewhere in the public sector, or in industry and the private sector.

Assessment Links

As a postgraduate research student at the University of Salford, you are required to meet a number of milestones in order to re-register for each year of study. These ‘progression points’ are an important aid for both you and your supervisory team and it is essential that you complete them on time.

Learning Agreement:  this is completed by you and your supervisor collaboratively in the first 3 months of your research programme. It encourages both of you to develop a thorough and consistent understanding of your individual and shared roles and responsibilities in your research partnership.

Annual Progress Report:  this report is completed by your supervisor at the end of each year of study, and reports on your achievements in the past year, the likelihood that you will submit on time, confirmation of the Learning Agreement and relevant training undertaken.

Self Evaluation Report: this is completed by you at the end of each year of study. It asks you to comment on your academic progress, supervisory arrangements, research environment, research training, and relevant training undertaken.

Interim Assessment: this is an assessment of your progress by a panel. It takes place towards the end of your first year, and is designed to ensure you have reached a threshold of academic performance, by assessing your general progress. The assessment comprises a written report, presentation and oral examination by a Panel. You must successfully complete it in order to register for your second year.

Internal Evaluation: this will take place towards the end of the second year and successful completion is required in order to continue onto your third year of study. You will be expected to show strong progress in your PhD study reflected in the submission of a substantial piece of work, generally at least 4 chapters of your thesis.

Research Profile

Research Excellence

The School of Health Sciences currently has more than 80 postgraduate research students is from multicultural backgrounds. As well as the UK we have students from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Denmark, South Africa, China, Malaysia and France.  We also have visiting students with us throughout the year (often for short study placements of 2-6 months). 

Each of the School research areas is led by an experienced researcher, often a Professor, whose expertise has international recognition. All our research leaders publish their research in peer reviewed internationally recognised journals and are they regularly invited to speak at international conferences. They lead on a wide range of established collaborations with UK, international academic and industry partners.

The research areas for Public Health & Behavioural Medicine are:

  • Health, Wellbeing and Wellness at Work
  • Public Health Interventions & Epidemiology

Staff Profiles

Professor Pauline Adair (Professor of Health Psychology)

Pauline graduated from Queen’s University Belfast with a BSSc. In Psychology followed by a MSc. In Health Psychology from Stirling University. Following completion of a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Queen’s University, Belfast, she completed her PhD in Health Psychology (part-time) entitled “Psychological Predictors of Disability in Chronic Pain” at St Andrews University supervised by Professor Marie Johnston while working as a Lecturer in Health Psychology (related to Dentistry) and Honorary Clinical Psychologist for NHS Tayside. She conducts research applying health psychology theory to improving health and reducing morbidity as well as developing and evaluating behaviour change and psychological interventions to improve well being and quality of life in those with chronic illness. She is a Clinical and a Health Psychologist registered with the Health Care Professions Council and Chartered with the British Psychological Society (BPS). She has worked for 15 years (8 years as a Consultant) in the NHS delivering psychological services to people with acute and chronic illness.

Dr Margaret Coffey

Margaret has a first class degree in Health and a PhD in ‘stress in social services’, both from Liverpool John Moores University. Prior to joining the University of Salford in September 2010 Margaret was a Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader for BA (Hons) Health Degree at Liverpool Hope University. Margaret is particularly interested in stress in the workplace, with a focus on the organizational, rather than individual, factors which impact on health and wellbeing in the workplace. In addition to this, Margaret is interested in evaluating behaviour change interventions in respect of lifestyle; the social determinants of health and health inequalities. Margaret’s methodological expertise includes: mixed methods, survey design and evaluation research. Margaret is currently the Programme Leader for MSc in Public Health at the University of Salford, and a co-editor for the International Journal of Workplace Health.

Dr Penny Cook

Penny has a biology degree from the University of Manchester and a PhD in population biology from the University of Liverpool. Prior to joining the University of Salford in June 2012, Penny was a Reader in Public Health Epidemiology at Liverpool John Moores University’s Centre for Public Health, with specialist interests in sexual health and alcohol harm. Recent projects included an investigation of the public’s attitude to alcohol, ‘the Big Drink Debate’, which attracted the opinions of nearly 30,000 people. She is currently carrying out a study that uses non-invasive blood tests to screen for alcohol-related liver damage in primary care and workplaces. Penny is particularly interested in the overlap between alcohol and sexual health, and has carried out Department of Health funded research on the overlap between population-level indicators of alcohol use, teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections in teenagers. Sexual health projects have included managing regional surveillance of HIV, and used data from this system to demonstrate inequalities in health and healthcare in people with HIV. She has evaluated the impact of a pilot sex and relationships education programme in schools, evaluated a programme  of dual testing for Chlamydia and gonorrhoea in young people, and carried out many sexual health needs assessments and service evaluations. She has also carried out research contributing to the National Centre for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidance on HIV and sexual health.

Christine Parker

Christine is a is a Senior Lecturer in Physiotherapy and Vocational Rehabilitation, a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and a Chartered Physiotherapist with 25 years experience working in both the NHS and the private sector. She is registered with the Healthcare Professions Council and has an MSc in Pain Management Practice Development. Her specialist practice area is the management of long term conditions in a bio-psychosocial model, centering on chronic pain problems and interdisciplinary practice. Her specialist academic and research areas are in vocational rehabilitation and workplace health. She runs the Vocational Rehabilitation (level 7) module and is a Trustee for the Vocational Rehabilitation Association, for whom she also chairs the Professional Development Committee. Christine’s research to date has included the design and evaluation of the Working Well Service for Salford PCT and the Health Foundation. She is currently leading on a study, working with Professor Kim Burton, to investigate the impact of evidence based information on sickness absence behaviours in association with routine physiotherapy practice. Christine is currently helping drive forward new commercial initiatives and shares the operational management role for the new ‘Wellness Works’ Centre of Excellence, which offers two key strands of activity capturing promotion of health in the workplace and vocational rehabilitation, both of which contribute to a contemporary model of occupational health.


Career Prospects

Students leaving the School with a postgraduate research degree are well placed to lead and manage research and development activities in a number of areas. This includes health and social care organisations (e.g. NHS, charities, social enterprises), Industry (e.g. Fitness Industry) or local authority (e.g. Councils). Some students have progressed to work with national bodies and some take further research post and work within Higher Education. Globally, a postgraduate research qualification is usually a prerequisite for an academic career and several of our alumni are now senior academics.

Previous students have taken their research expertise and knowledge into public health practice, innovating in health services and helping to advance knowledge and practice in their professional discipline. Others have gone forward to academic positions or found industry positions. We encourage the maintenance of links between graduating research students and their host research group and supervisor. This means the University can become part of the developing professional network that students take forward into their future careers.  

Links with Industry

The research groups in the School of Health Sciences have extensive industry connections and collaborations. These include companies in biomedical device (Active4Life) and also retail industries (e.g. Unilever – researching toothbrushing behaviour of children). These are available to enhance the research activities of postgraduate students, to improve the quality and application of research, and to form lasting partnerships between students, academics and the external partners concerned.  The need for industrial collaboration and selection of suitable partners can be discussed directly with research programme leaders and supervisors.  Some students may wish to suggest potential new partners based on their existing professional collaborations and networks.