Professor Katrina Wyatt - Deputy Director (Public Engagement)

What excites me most about joining the Centre?

The aim of the Centre is to co-create transdisciplinary work to address so-called wicked issues such as inequalities and poor health, and taking a relational approach to the development of new practices and programmes, is hugely exciting. Through the Centre there is a real possibility of research which makes a difference to health and health inequalities and which can inform policy and practice.

My undergraduate degree and PhD were in biological chemistry and I worked in a drug discovery biochemistry lab for a pharmaceutical company for four years following my PhD.

I then moved into health research, working for the Centre for Maternal, Fetal and Child Health at Keele University/ North Staffordshire Hospital NHS Trust. During this period I co-developed a computer based tool for assessing menstrual cycle symptoms and conducted several systematic reviews looking at the effectiveness of prescribed or over the counter treatments for premenstrual syndrome. I co-wrote chapters assessing treatment evidence for the inaugural and subsequent editions of BMJ Clinical Evidence.

I joined the Medical School in Exeter in 2000 as lecturer in research methods for the Research and Development Support Unit (RDSU), now Research Design Service. As part of the RDSU I became the lead for Folk.us, a research programme to develop a culture of meaningful service user, patient and carer involvement across the SW Peninsula. In 2003 I became a lecturer in Child Health in the Peninsula Medical School supporting the development and evaluation of complex interventions. I am currently a Professor of Relational Health within the University of Exeter Medical School.

My research is concerned with creating the conditions for health and reducing health equalities. Understanding workplaces, schools and communities as complex systems and developing processes which support sustainable new ways of behaving has led to the development of the Connecting Communities Programme. A central tenet of how I conduct research is to involve parents, teachers, young people, residents, service users as partners in the design and delivery of the research.

One of the major achievements of Folk.us was in creating a culture of patient and carer involvement in research. The work of Folk.us supported a central strand of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) South West Peninsula award and led to Exeter receiving RCUK funding to create a culture of public engagement in research, the Exeter Catalyst.

I work across disciplines and with quantitative and qualitative methods to develop and evaluate programmes aimed at creating the conditions for health. This has involved working with drama, schools, children and parents to develop an obesity prevention programme for primary school children (the Healthy Lifestyles Programme) as well as the Connecting Communities Programme (C2) which engages very low income communities to identify the issues for that community and to form partnerships in response to these issues. C2 partnerships have been recognised locally and nationally.

My research interests are in the nature of causality in non-linear systems and in developing complex system approaches to health and health inequalities.

Key to this work are the processes underpinning the identification of the issues (or problems), which are specific to the neighbourhood/ workplace/community and developing partnerships to address these problems, which can create the conditions for health.

I have an allotment and make my own jam (but I haven’t been invited to Glastonbury, yet).