Dr Helen Elsey

Dr Helen Elsey


Helen is an Associate Professor in Public Health working in the NCIHD. Helen Elsey is Associate Professor of Public Health in the Nuffield Centre for International Health and Development, University of Leeds. Her research focuses on urban health issues, in particular issues of gender and equity in relation to health risk and behaviour and the development and evaluation of complex public health interventions to improve the health of disadvantaged populations. Her current research focuses on urban health in low income countries; particularly in improving the collection and use of data that represents the needs of the urban poor and in developing interventions to improve health and reduce injuries in urban slums. Helen is engaged in work with people with tuberculosis in South Asia, developing interventions for tobacco cessation and to improve psycho-social well-being. Helen is module leader for the MSc International Programmatic Responses to Key Public Health Issues and for the BSc Non-Communicable Disease module. She also teaches research methods, communicable disease control, HIV/AIDS, community engagement on the International Masters in Public Health and Intercalated BScPublic Health Specialist Registrar/Lecturer.


  • Member of the Faculty of Public Health (CCT gained in April 2014)
  • PhD ‘Encouraging Participation in a Community Health Programme’ – Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences, University of Southampton, 2006
  • MSc in Community Public Health (Distinction) – Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, 2001
  • MA in Development Studies – University of Leeds, 1994
  • BA (Hons) Human Geography and Economics (2.1) – John Moore’s University, Liverpool, 1993

Current and previous roles

  • April 2017 to date: Associate Professor in Public Health, NCIHD
  • April 2014- April 2017: Public Health Lecturer NCIHD
  • July 2009–March 2014: Public Health Specialist Registrar, Academic Unit of Public Health, University of Leeds, Leeds Institute of Health Sciences
  • January 2006–June 2009: Senior Research Fellow/Research Design Service South Central Deputy Director, Public Health and Medical Statistics, School of Medicine, University of Southampton
  • February 2003–January 2006: Doctoral student, ‘Encouraging Participation in a Community Health Programme’, University of Southampton, Funded by Southampton City Primary Care Trust
  • February 2003–December 2006: International Health and Social Development Consultant, assignments in Nigeria, Kenya, Burundi, Vietnam and Laos for TearFund, Liverpool Associate in Tropical Health, DfID, WHO, UNAIDS
  • January 2002–January 2003: Researcher/Associate Professional Officer: HIV/AIDS and Gender, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine/Department for International Development (DfID)
  • March 2000–January 2001: Research and Policy Officer HIV/AIDS and Education, ActionAid (International NGO)
  • January 1999–January 2000: Research Fellow, HIV/AIDS, Centre for Applied Development Studies, University of Lincolnshire
  • February 1995–December 1998: HIV/AIDS Programme Officer, ActionAid

Current research interests

Helen's research interests lie in applied global public health research with a focus on urban areas. Her work focuses on developing and evaluating public health interventions that reduce risks to health and well-being and improve health behaviour and access to health services among the most disadvantaged populations. Helen is involved in the development, evaluation and scale-up of public health interventions in low income countries. Provision of quality day-care for under 5 children has the potential to improve child health and development as well as empowering some of the poorest women and families. The Urban Anchal study in Dhaka, Bangladesh is developing and testing day-care for poor urban families. https://medhealth.leeds.ac.uk/info/691/research/2392/urban_anchal \

The development and scale-up of a tobacco cessation intervention for people with TB in Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan https://www.york.ac.uk/healthsciences/research/public-health/projects/tb-tobacco/

The evaluation and development of approaches to enable patient feedback in Bangladesh http://medhealth.leeds.ac.uk/info/691/research/2349/respond\n

Developing approaches for increasing accountability of urban health centres in Nepal to their communities http://comdis-hsd.leeds.ac.uk/

To inform the development and targeting of public health interventions in urban areas there is an need for data that represents the urban poorest. Such data is severely lacking in most low income countries. The Surveys for Urban Equity (SUE) study tests out novel survey methods and works with local governments to make use of data in Nepal, Bangladesh and Vietnam https://medhealth.leeds.ac.uk/info/691/research/2388/sue/

Methodologically, Helen is interested in systematic review methods that synthesise complex public health evidence in a way that can be used by decision-makers. She is part of the University of Leeds' systematic review hub and is currently involved in two reviews; an umbrella review on community engagement https://medhealth.leeds.ac.uk/info/691/research/2374/community_dialogues_in_bangladesh and a mixed methods review of the health and social impacts of care farms https://medhealth.leeds.ac.uk/info/642/primary_care_public_health_and_palliative_care/1045/evaluating_community_orders_eco_study

To hear an overview of urban health work that Helen has been involved in with partners in South Asia:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlMO8PBjm_A

Current and recent research

Co-investigator and lead for the intervention development and scale up work packages within the TB and Tobacco study in Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan, EU H2020 (2015-2019).

PI for the ECO study - a feasibility study and systematic review of the effectiveness of care farms, NIHR PHR (2013-2015)http://medhealth.leeds.ac.uk/info/642/primary_care_public_health_and_palliative_care// and http://www.campbellcollaboration.org/lib/project/321/

Helen works with the COMDIS HSD team with a particular focus on the studies in Nepal on psycho-social support for MDR TB patients and urban health and in Bangladesh on improving primary care for NCDs and child health. http://medhealth.leeds.ac.uk/info/691/research/250/comdis-hsd\n

PI for the Health Kitchens: Healthy Cities project in urban slums in South Asia http://www.wun.ac.uk/wun/research/view/healthy-kitchens-healthy-cities WUN (2013-2016)

Co-investigator for Human Resources for Health Nepal (WHO IRP) 2013-2016)

Project lead on 'Social Norms Intervention to Prevent Smoking: a social norms intervention in secondary schools', FSF NHS Leeds and NHS Wakefield (2011–2012).

Co-investigator and lead for Leeds-based elements of 'Optimum care for non-morbidly obese patients with type 2 diabetes: the perspectives of patients and clinicians on the role of bariatric surgery', NIHR Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB) Programme (2009–2012).

Collaborator on 'Understanding the barriers and facilitators of effective implementation of self care in Mental Health Trusts', NIHR SDO, £310,500 (2006–2009).

Principal Investigator on 'Self care and user involvement in Diabetes services in low income areas', Wessex Medical Research Fund, £10,000 (2007–2009). \n Collaborator on 'The development of an integrated early detection and intervention model for Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder', NIHR Programme Grant, £1,999,790 (2009–2014).

Teaching Responsibilities

Module leader for International MSC 'Programmatic Response to Key Issues in International Health'. Other teachings on IMPH and Intercalated BSc: research methods, health promotion, community engagement, communicable disease control.

PhD supervision

Helen currently supervises two PhD students studying the nutrition transition in urban Kenya and the development of an intervention to prevent smoking in schools in Egypt. She would be interested in supervising PhD students in the following areas in the UK or low-income country contexts: urban health, tobacco, green care and nature-based interventions, developing equitable health services, community development approaches in public health, patient and community participation in health services, exploring issues of gender and equity in health risk, health behaviour and access to health services.She is happy to supervise quantitative, qualitative and/or action research studies.

Current PhD students

Ba-Break, M: Preventing Smoking in Egyptian Schools

Peters, R: Dietary Transition in Urban Slums in Kenya

Van Bavel, B: Measuring Health and Climate Change for the SDG: community systems in Uganda

Professional activities

Helen sits on the International Committee of the Faculty of Public Health and is co-chair of the special interest group on 'Healthy Places'

Helen is an active member of the RinGs - Research in Gender and Ethics Consortium. http://resyst.lshtm.ac.uk/rings 

Research interests

Current research projects:

Surveys for Urban Equity project,

Urban ‘Anchal’ day-care project,

TB & Tobacco Study and for copies of all tobacco cessation materials: https://tbandtobacco.org/


RinGs research consortium.


  • PhD
  • Msc
  • BAHons

Professional memberships

  • Member of Faculty of Public Health

Student education

I lead the MSc Programme Responses module, the NCD module for BSc and teach urban health and global health on a number of BSc and MPH courses.

Research groups and institutes

  • Leeds Institute of Health Sciences
<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://medicinehealth.leeds.ac.uk/research-opportunities">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>