Exploring health inequalities

The factors that influence our food choices day-to-day are complex and poorly understood. Despite decades of government-funded nutritional education (which has resulted in all time high levels of knowledge about healthy eating within the Scottish population), we have witnessed a large rise in levels overweight and obesity across Scottish society.

I am leading a range of community-based studies that aim to develop a better understanding of factors that predispose, enable or reinforce nutritionally poor food choices, that have been linked to non-communicable diseases such as obesity and diabetes.

This research aims to inform public policy and programmes to support and enable people to consume a healthier diet.

Research focus

I am interested in a range of health promotion/public health issues and have used mixed research methods to conduct my research. However I use predominantly qualitative research methods in my work.

 Past research projects have included:

  • The nutritional quality of food served in pre-school day care centres.
  • Health and social needs of young people living in rural locations.
  • Health information needs of Scottish university students.
  • The primary health care needs of people living in economically disadvantaged urban areas of Aberdeen.
  • Primary health care staff practice and views about advising physical activity.
  • The impact of community-based interventions aimed at addressing men's health inequalities.
  • The impact of primary care based interventions aim at reducing health inequalities amongst those over 45 years of age living in disadvantaged areas of Aberdeen.
  • The perceptions of lay groups, clinicians and policy makers about the causes of obesity and their respective preferences regarding obesity reduction.
  •  A midwifery-led smoking cessation service aimed at low-income or unemployed women (pre and post partum) - users' and service deliverers' perspectives.

Current research projects include:

  • A secondary qualitative analysis of general practitioners' perceptions about the role of primary care in obesity prevention.
  • Evaluating the engagement of parents, children and health professionals of a child healthy weight intervention.
  • A qualitative synthesis of effective weight management interventions aimed at men.

1. Principal Investigator: Research project commissioned by the Health Education Board for Scotland.

Co investigators: E. van Teijlingen; S.Brindle  "An evaluation of a computer screen based health promotion intervention aimed at students in higher education in Scotland." Award total: £17,000. Awarded Dec 2002 - completed Dec 2003.

 2. Principal Investigator: Research project commissioned by NHS Health Scotland.

Co investigators E. van Teijlingen; N. Torrance  "An investigation of primary health care staff's knowledge and beliefs related to the health benefits of physical activity, and their attitudes and self reported practice associated with promoting it in the Scottish context" Award: £25,000 Awarded October 2003 – completed May 2004.

3. Principal Investigator: Independent evaluation commissioned by the Scottish Executive.

Co investigators Anne Ludbrook, Edwin van Teijlingen. "An evaluation of a Well Men'sServices Pilots Project." Award: £225,000 Awarded September 2004 – to be completed December 2006

4. Co-investigator: Research project funded by the National Prevention Research Initiative Scientific Committee

 Principle Investigator: Luke Vale Co investigators: Luke Vale, Kostas Mavromaras, Mandy Ryan, Anne Ludbrooke, Edwin van Teijlingen, Alison Avenal, Lorna Aucott, Tony Scott  "An economic evaluation of obesity in the UK".  Award: £400,000  Awarded February 2006  - due to be completed Feb 2011.


Douglas, F.C.G., Greener, J.,  van Teijlingen, E., Ludbrook, A. (2013) “Services just for men? Insights from a national study of the well men services pilots.” BMC Public Health, 13 (Art. 425)

Macdiarmid, J.I., Loe, J., Douglas, F., Ludbrook, A., Comerford, C., McNeill, G. (2011) “Developing a timeline for evaluating public health nutrition policy interventions. What are the outcomes and when should we expect to see them?” Public Health Nutrition, 14 (4) pp. 729-739

Greener, J., Douglas, F., Van Teijlingen, E. (2010) “More of the same? Conflicting perspectives of obesity causation and intervention amongst overweight people, health professionals and policy makers.” Social Sciences and Medicine,  70 (7) pp. 1042-1049

Douglas, F.C.G., Gray, D.A., Van Teijlingen, E. (2010) “Using a realist approach to evaluate smoking cessation interventions targeting pregnant women and young people.” BMC Health Service  Research, 10, (Art. 49)

Reid, G.D., Van Teijlingen, E., Douglas, F., Robertson, L., Ludbrook, A. (2009) “The reality of partnership working when undertaking an evaluation of a national Well Men's Service.” Journal of Mens Health, 6 (1) pp. 36-49

Van Teijlingen, E., Douglas, F. (2008) “Clinical governance and research ethics as barriers to UK low-risk population-based health research?” BMC Public Health, 8 (Art. 396)

Additional activities

Teaching Responsibilities

  • BSc Health Sciences -  Health Promotion 3518 and 4504, Introduction to Research and Sociology of Health and Illness 
  • BSc Sports Studies
  • MSc in Public Health and Health Service Research
  • MSc Human Nutrition
  • MSc Public Health Nutrition
  • MSc in International Health

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External Responsibilities

NHS Grampian's Evaluation Steering Group

Currently involved in the strategic redesign of NHS Grampian's Health Promotion Framework.  

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Admin Responsibilities

 Course coordinator for Health Promotion 3518 and 4504 (BSc Health Sciences)

Member of the University College Ethics Review Board