Felicity Thomas

Deputy Director (Internationalisation)


I graduated from University College London with a BA (Hons) in Anthropology and Geography, and then spent several years working in the international NGO sector, focusing on educational provision and development in post-conflict states within sub-Saharan Africa. I returned to academia to undertake a PhD on the impacts of HIV and AIDS on rural livelihoods in Namibia.

Since then, I have worked across a number of academic disciplines to understand and seek to address the social and cultural factors that perpetuate health inequalities. Within this, my work has focused around the health and wellbeing of low-income communities; migrant health; sexual health; environmental injustice; and the promotion of healthy schools. Using narrative, ethnographic and participatory approaches, my work seeks to provide a forum for voicing the experiences and priorities of those most adversely affected by health inequalities.

I am Co-Director (with Professor Mark Jackson) of the WHO Collaborating Centre on Culture and Health and work closely with the WHO Regional Office for Europe project on the Cultural Contexts of Health. I have undertaken a number of consultancies including work for UNAIDS, WHO, the Ministerio da Educacao in Brazil, and the Departments of Health and Education and Communities, NSW, Australia. I was also on the external evaluation team of the Ford Foundation’s Global Dialogues on Sexual Health and Wellbeing programme.

Highlights of my career to date

Being able to bring my diverse background and interests together to pursue transdisciplinary research that engages with a wide spectrum of stakeholders, including local communities, health practitioners and global institutions.

Particular highlights in my current work on mental health have included: gaining in-depth perspectives from low-income communities on the relationships between poverty and mental health; critiquing the role of mental health diagnoses as it relates to wellbeing; securing and sustaining resident engagement in steering the research objectives, process and dissemination.

The research I will be undertaking in the centre

In addition to helping set up and sustain a more publicly engaged culture of working practice, I hope to explore collaborations between researchers, communities, policy makers and other stakeholders to question norms around, and expand what counts as, good evidence. Within this, I think that there is significant scope to show how narrative forms of evidence have real potential to impact on health related policy and practice.

Something about me you can’t Google!

I love the great outdoors, and am a big fan of natural history. My partner is an aquatic ecologist, so I probably know more about ponds than your average social scientist (would perhaps ever want to!).

Shame, poverty and health – seminar July 2019

hosted by Luna Dolezal; speakers Robert Walker, Felicity Thomas and Lucy Hodges.


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