PhD Project


'Neighbourhood effects - spatial inequalities in oral health'

PhD Student: Tom Broomheadtom broomhead

Supervisors: Professor Sarah Baker (Dentistry) and Dr Dimitris Ballas (Geography)

Currently there is a lack of theoretical research investigating the effects of neighbourhood environments on oral health outcomes. Previous work has often failed to take into account the inter-related functions and feedback mechanisms between individual characteristics and those of their environment, leading to outcomes that are simply quantified with little explanation as to why such patterns occur.

Therefore, the aim of my PhD is to investigate how neighbourhoods influence patterns of spatial inequalities in tooth decay, and why such patterns exist. To do this I will conceptualise the most important features of neighbourhoods using a framework devised by Macintyre et al., (2002), and use this to create numerous pathways by which neighbourhoods influence oral health. Two simulation methods will be used to help test this theory. Spatial microsimulation modelling is a geographical technique capable of creating a representative synthetic population from existing data sources. This synthetic population will be used to test the theoretical pathways using agent-based models, which bridge the gap between individual and environmental characteristics, and allow for dynamic interactions to be modelled. Through my research I hope to shed more light on why where we live matters (if at all) for our oral health. This research is funded by a Medical Humanities Sheffield studentship.


I have a background in social and spatial geography, having graduated with a Bachelors degree in Human Geography in 2009, and a Masters degree in Social and Spatial Inequalities in 2011, both from the Department of Geography, University of Sheffield. I have also previously worked as a research assistant at the School of Clinical Dentistry, University of Sheffield.

map of something, I wasn't given a caption because I'm a mind reader apparently