Self-funded PhD opportunities

Capturing sugar-promoting environments and understanding the link with oral health outcomes

  • Application end date: Applications accepted all year round
  • Funding Availability: Self-funded PhD students only
  • Department: Dental Academy
  • PhD Supervisor: Kristina L Wanyoni and Liz Twigg (Geography)

Oral diseases are preventable, however, they are some of the most common illnesses globally. Sugary food intake is associated with the development of tooth decay. Reducing sugar intake levels is a current and central public health agenda issue. There is an emerging debate on sugary food available in the environment and how this impacts health. Poor oral health is already associated with deprivation in the environment, social norms, policy and behaviour. In the UK, surveys have consistently shown that there are socio-spatial and socio-economic inequalities in oral health. Across urban areas in England this pattern of inequality is evidenced by poorer oral health of children in deprived areas. Whilst there are many health promotion activities in local areas targeting individuals, the environmental determinants of oral health are rarely targeted. There is evidence that policies that affect local areas may be useful in tackling oral health inequalities. Whilst much work has looked at the relationship between the retail environment and other health outcomes (e.g. obesity and heart disease) or health risk behaviours (e.g. smoking and alcohol consumption), very little work has focused on understanding the nature and variation in ‘sugar promoting environments’ and their direct impact on inequalities in oral health. There has been little work in defining such environments and hence routine work understanding their impact is lacking.

The aim of this project is to design a simple but effective routine measure that captures variation in ‘sugar-promoting environments’ and to understand its importance for childhood oral health outcomes. This will be undertaken both locally, where there are pockets of high deprivation and poor oral health, and nationally. The project will: (i) exploit and enhance a unique local data source on oral health inequalities and (ii) develop and compare novel ways of defining ‘sugar promoting environments’.

The results of this study will inform the future direction of public health interventions to tackle oral diseases and reduce inequalities locally and nationally. This will allow some quantification of the relative contribution of individual, neighbourhood and collective characteristics on oral health. Moreover the study will help promote a wider debate to include retail planning and legislation, similar to the debates surrounding alcohol and tobacco.

The successful candidate should have a good first degree and/or master’s in a social science or a master’s in public health or the equivalent. Whilst the ability to work independently will be essential, the candidate will be embedded within a team at the University of Portsmouth Dental Academy and will also work closely with staff from the Department of Geography.

Funding notes:

This PhD opportunity is available to self-funded students. Bench fees may apply. For more information please contact the project supervisor.

How to apply:

To apply or make an enquiry, please contact Dr Kristina Wanyonyi.

To apply, please use our online application form. All applications should use our standard application forms and follow the instructions given under the ‘Research Degrees’ heading on the following webpages:

When applying please note the project code - UPDA3270217