culture + environment creating health + wellbeing engaged research

Felicity Thomas

Centre Co-Director: Teaching and Learning


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.

Drawing on a cross-disciplinary background spanning anthropology, public health, education and geography, I lead a programme of research that examines how lived experiences of health inequalities can inform the development of effective clinical practice and applied health and social policy.

My work has focused around the mental health and wellbeing of low-income communities in the UK (see http://destressproject.org.uk) and in Central and Eastern Europe; early life trauma; migrant health; sexual health; and the promotion of young people’s health and wellbeing. 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. This work has attracted funding from ESRC, MRC, GCRF and Health Education England.

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 on the Cultural Contexts of Health programme. I have undertaken a number of consultancies including work for UNAIDS, WHO, Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, Ford Foundation, the Ministerio da Educacao in Brazil, and the Department of Health and Department of Education and Communities, NSW, Australia.


Recent research

(PI) Poverty, pathology and pills: mental health under austerity and welfare reform (DeStress project), 2016-2019, ESRC Research Grant

(PI) Developing training materials for GPs working to support the mental health of low-income patients, 2019-2020, Health Education England funded

(PI) Revaluing global care economies, Duke-Exeter Fund

(PI) Co-creating early help for families with complex needs, 2018-2019, ESRC funded

(PI) Supporting families living with mental illness in Minsk Region, Belarus, 2018-2019, GCRF funded

(PI) Early life trauma in Belarus and Ukraine, 2018-2019, MRC TrACES funded


Recent publications

Ford, J., Thomas, F. McCabe, R. and Byng, R. (in press) Use of the PHQ-9 in practice: a study of interactions between patients and generalist physicians, Qualitative Health Research

Thomas, F., Hansford, L., Wyatt, K., and the DeStress team (2020) An engaged approach to exploring poverty and mental health: reflections from researchers and community participants involved in the DeStress study, Health Expectations, https://doi.org/10.1111/hex.13065

Thomas, F., Hansford, L., and Wyatt, K. (2020) The violence of narrative: embodying responsibility for poverty-related distress, Sociology of Health and Illness, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1467-9566.13084

Thomas, F. (2020) Intercultural Competence and Diversity Sensitivity: Toolkit for Practitioners and Policy Makers, Copenhagen: WHO Europe

Marais, J., Kazakova, O., Krupchanka, D., Suvalo, D. and Thomas, F. (2020) Understanding and building resilience to early life trauma in Belarus and Ukraine, Copenhagen: WHO Europe

Thomas, F. and Fietje, N. (2019) Capturing the cultural narratives of well-being, in Acharya, K. and Plough, A. (eds) Creating a Culture of Well-being, Oxford: Oxford University Press, Ch 5

Thomas, F., Hansford, L., Ford, J., Wyatt, K., McCabe, R., Byng, R. (2019) How accessible and acceptable are current GP referral mechanisms for IAPT for low-income patients? Lay and primary care perspectives, Journal of Mental Health, 1-6, https://doi.org/10.1080/09638237.2019.1677876

Ford, J., Thomas, F., McCabe, R. and Byng, R. (2019) How do patients respond to GP recommendations for mental health treatment? British Journal of General Practice Open, https://doi.org/10.3399/bjgpopen19X101670

Hansford, L., Thomas, F. and Wyatt, K. (2019) The impact of the Work Capability Assessment on mental health: claimants’ lived experience and GP perspectives in low-income communities, Journal of Poverty and Social Justice, 27(3): 351-368

Thomas, F. and Hansford, L. (2019) Supporting mental health in low-income communities: implications for justice and equity, in Aggleton, P., Broom, A. and Moss, J. (eds) Practical Justice: Principles, Practice and Social Change, London: Routledge

Thomas, F., Hansford, L., Ford, J., Wyatt, K., McCabe, R. and Byng, R. (2018) Moral narratives and mental health: rethinking understandings of distress and healthcare support in contexts of austerity and welfare reform, Palgrave Communications, 4: 39

Thomas, F. (2018) Culture and Reform of Mental Health in Central and Eastern Europe, Copenhagen: WHO