Professor Sheena Asthana
Director of Plymouth Institute of Health and Care Research
Peninsula Medical School (Faculty of Health)
- Health services
- Health inequalities
- Health resource allocation
- Social prescribing
- Formula funding
- Public health
- Applied statistics
- Before-and-after studies
- Big Data
Email email@example.com to enquire.
Having been the (founding) Director of the Plymouth Institute of Health and Care Research, I have recently assumed Directorship of the Centre for Health Technology, a focus of significant ambition and investment for the University. I am also the co-Director of the Centre for Coastal Communities, the first of its kind in the UK.
My original training was in global public health. Following an undergraduate degree in Geography at Oxford University (for which I was awarded a congratulatory First), I undertook my doctoral training at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. My PhD (in Community Medicine) focused on the role of community-based strategies in promoting health development in Indian slum communities and led to (WHO-funded) research on the scope for developing community-based responses to HIV prevention (again in India) with particular reference to commercial sex circuits and circuits of men who have sex with men.
I still publish and teach on issues relating to global public health. However, as I began to have the first of my five children, I shifted my research interests towards the UK. With respect to public health, examples include the largest local evaluation of a Health Action Zone, co-writing a major book on health inequalities and evidence-based public health and the chapter on coastal health inequalities in the 2021 Chief Medical Officer’s annual report and being a board member of the Royal Society for Public Health, a non-executive director (with the public health remit) of NICE and a non-executive director of Devon Integrated Care Board, with the remit for population health management, health inequalities and digital transformation. I recently stepped down from the board of Change Grow Live (though remain on its research committee). This is a national charity that provides, among other services, support for substance use, domestic abuse, children’s mental health and prisoner’s health. I have learnt a lot from CGL’s ‘Whole Person’ approach and this has complemented current collaborative research on social prescribing, integrated care and the use of the ‘researcher in residence’ methodology to support participative research and practice. I am also the principal investigator or co-application on a range of public health funded projects, including the NIHR funded Plymouth Health Determinants Research Collaboration (£5m).
At the other end of the spectrum, I have also established a large programme of health services research that involves the use of extensive health service, public health and related datasets and largely quantitative research methods. For example, with Alex Gibson, an important focus has been the use of synthetic estimation techniques (within a Bayesian analytical framework) to develop robust methods of estimating the prevalence of specific diseases and disease risk factors. We have used such methods to explore variations in health service use (primarily cardiovascular and mental health) relative to underlying need. We have also long argued the case for using such estimates to sense-test the utilisation-based approach to setting health care capitations. Through this work, resource allocation has become an important research focus and, with Alex Gibson, impact case studies on the formula funding of public services were rates 4* in REFs 2014 and 2021. I sit on the Advisory Committee for Resource Allocation, the independent body that advises NHS England on the distribution of more than £160 billion NHS funding. Alex and I have also carried out research on funding allocations for local government, adult social care, children’s services, education and policing.
Other research interests include digital health, with a particular emphasis on the barriers and enablers to embedding innovation in the NHS (which related to a range of infrastructural, evidential and cultural challenges) and a concern with levelling up coastal communities, a focus of our current South West Coastal Local Innovation Policy Partnership. I probably come across as a bit of a dilettante. However, I enjoy the breadth of my research interests and I do hope that this has given me good knowledge (complex, layered and longstanding) of the health and social care systems (in the UK and further afield) as well as an ability to identify, nurture and champion research across very different health-related disciplines.
I have been an applicant on over £30 million of funded research projects, the author of over 200 publications (excluding conference presentations) and am a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences
BA (Hons) in Geography. First Class (Congratulatory); St John’s College, Oxford, 1986
PhD in Community Medicine, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, 1991
Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences
Roles on external bodies
(2021–present) Responsible Member, NIHR Public Health Incubator Steering Group
(2020–present) Member, Plymouth Health Hub Project Board
(2020–present) Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences
(2020–2021) Member, Health Inequalities Task and Finish Group (ACRA)
(2017–present) Member, Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation (ACRA) (DH)
(2017–present) Member, Commissioning Panel,Policy Research Programme (DH)
(2017–present) Trustee, Change Grow Live (national charity)
(2016–present) Non-Executive Director, National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) (DH)
(2014–2017) Member of the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to the Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation (ACRA) (DH)
(2014–present) Member of the Advisory Group to‘The Project’ (NGO providing mental health support to children and young people)
(2014–present) Panel Member (Funding), Devon Community Foundation
(2014–present) Steering Group Member, Rural England
(2012–2015) Council Member, Royal Society for Public Health
(2012–2015) Trustee, Plymouth Age Concern
(2011–2015) Member, Commissioning Panel, Policy Research Programme (DH)
(2011–2012) Member, Community Organisers and Community First Expert Reference Group (Cabinet Office)
(2007–2013) Member, Audit and Risk Committee, Commission for Rural Communities
(2006–2013) Board Member, Commission for Rural Communities (DEFRA)
(2006–2008) Member, Policy and Management Group, Devon Rural Network
(2006–2008) Member, Rural Practice Standing Group, Royal College of General Practitioners
(2005–2006) Board Member, Countryside Agency (DEFRA)
(2003–2006) Advisory Editor, Social Science and Medicine
(2001–2003) Technical Advisor. Rural Health Allocations Forum
(2000–2002) Member, Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Health Action Zone Steering Group
(1999–2002) Chair, Geography of Health Research Group of the Royal Geographical Society and the Institute of British Geographers
(1999) Visiting Lecturer, University of Turkku, Finland
(1998–2002) Member, Plymouth Health Action Zone Evaluation & Research Board
(1997–2000) Book Reviews Editor, Health and Place
(1996–1999) Secretary & Treasurer, Geography of Health Research Group of the Royal Geographical Society and the Institute of British Geographers
(1995–2008) Member, Editorial Board, Health and Place
Promoting an end to coastal poverty
Sheena is a leading advocate for improved distribution of funds to ensure fairer access to healthcare for all, focusing her attention on communities disproportionately lacking in support
REF Impact Case Study
Redesigning public services funding allocation formulae to maximise social benefit
Shaping how billions of pounds is spent on healthcare access across the UK
“I conducted a study on disease prevalence estimates which showed that rural and coastal areas, which were more affluent on paper, were shown to have higher levels of need than urban areas.”
Forget about the North-South divide, children in coastal communities are being left behind
Why have the many problems facing coastal communities been overlooked in media, academic, policy and political accounts of deprivation in modern Britain?
Health policy; social justice; international social policy; sustainability; and globalisation and health.
Staff serving as external examiners
External Examiner (PhD), IDS, University of Sussex, 2013.
External Examiner (PhD), Northumbria University, 2011.
External Examiner (PhD), Department of Geography & Geosciences, University of St Andrews, 2008.
External Examiner (PhD), Department of Geography, Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London, May, 2000.
External Examiner (PhD), Dept of Urban Planning and Development, South Bank University, May 1999.
- Digital health technologies
- Formula funding of public services
- Health inequalities
- Health care inequalities
- Community-based strategies in health development (including HIV/AIDS)
- Knowledge mobilisation (including through the Researcher in Residence model)
Research degrees awarded to supervised students
P. Evans: Urban Mosquitoes and Measures for their Control in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Awarded 1995; ESRC funded.
P. Vong-Ek. Factors Affecting the Incidence and Duration of Breastfeeding in Thailand: Implications for Health Promotion. Awarded 2000. WHO funded.
S. Burley. Changing Childbirth: the Role of Antenatal Services. Awarded 2004. University Scholarship, University of Plymouth.
S. Richardson.The Challenge of Interagency Information Sharing. A Systemic Analysis of Two Sure Start Children's Centres. Awarded 2007, ESRC funded
E. Williams. Non-Governmental Organizations and HIV/AIDS in Kolkata, India: A Discursive Analysis of Policy and Programming. Awarded 2009. ESRC funded.
Grants & contracts
S. Asthana, A Gibson, S. Agarwal, Y. Wei, C. Brayne. Understanding the research and policy needs of English coastal communities: a new coastal classification. ESRC, £970,774, October 2023-September 2026.
S. Asthana, S. Agarwal, K. Willis, R. Jones, M. Austen, R. Thompson, D. Greaves, C. Leyshon, K. Wyatt, T. Ovendon-Hope, L. Miller, A. Mankee-Williams. The South-West Coastal Local Policy Innovation Partnership (SWC-LPIP). ESRC. £49,346, April-September, 2023
R, Harrell, S. Asthana (University PI), G. Wallace, R. Byng, C. Quinn, J. Elston, T. Lee, C. McCardle, M. Austin, S. Agarwal. Plymouth Health Determinants Research Collaboration. NIHR, £4.75m, 2023-28.
R. Byng, K. Wyatt, F. Thomas. C. Hulme, S. Asthana, K. Husk, N. Axford, R Sheaff, A. Caleshu, V. Berry, K. Liabo, N. Frost, K. Oliverio, S. Chant. Devon Community Assets Research Collaborative - developing, understanding and linking within integrated care systems. AHRC, £234,581.25, 2022-23.
R. Jones, S. Gaudl, C. Li, A.Veliz Reyes, A. Aly, S. Zhou, A. Chatterjee, S. Asthana, D. Maudlin, K. Howell, E.Ifeachor, K. Willis, H. Bradwell, R. Baines. Intergenerational co-creation of novel technologies to reconnect digitally excluded people with community & cultural landscapes in coastal economies (ICONIC). EPSRC:Research Grant EP/W024357, £998, 441; 2022-25
J. Watson, S. Asthana, R. Byng. Building a Brighter Future: the design and evaluation of evidence-based, co-produced integrated care pathways for (a) frailty/older people and (b) perioperative care/orthopaedics that are future-ready while addressing the pressures and problems of the present. Torbay Medical Research Fund, £165,954, April 2022-March 2024.
J. Elston, F. Gradinger, S. Asthana, R. Byng. Implementing the Devon Population Health Management programme; a Researcher in Residence evaluation. Devon CCG/ICS, £60,000, 2022-23.
P. Welbourne, R. Sheaff, S. F. Gradinger, R. Byng, J. Elston, J. J. Williams, Manthorpe, R. Purtell, S. Asthana. Peninsula Adult Social Care Research Collaborative (PARC): Embedding research into practice to improve social care outcomes. NIHR, £571,115.35, 2021-2023
C. Brayne, F. Matthews, L. Lafortune, S. Asthana et al. Developing a sustainable platform to understand the primary care, public health and social care needs for dementia, with a focus on underserved populations. NIHR. £320,347.10, January 2022-July 2023.
C. Hennessy, R. Jones, A. Whittaker, R. Haynes, S. Asthana et al. Connectivity and Digital Design for Health and Well-being Across Generations, Places and Spaces. ESRC. £1,592,835.35; March 2021-February 2024.
C. Quinn, R. Byng, G. Wallace, S. Asthana. Public Health; Plymouth Priorities (PHeePP). NIHR PRP Local Authority Research System call, £49,810.04, 01/09/2020 - 31/12/2020
K. Husk (PI), S. Asthana, R. Byng, J. Elston, K. Mahtani, S. Tierney, M. Bertotti, C. Dayson, M. Polley, R Kimberlee, H Chatterjee. Academic Partners Collaborative for the National Academy of Social Prescribing. National Academy of Social Prescribing £175,269, September 2020-March 2021
J. Milligan, R Jones, A Chatterjee, S. Asthana et al. E-Health Productivity & Innovation in Cornwall (EPIC2). European Regional Development Fund OC05R18P 0782, £4,147,612; 1st March 2020- 28th February 2023.
K. Willis, R. Jones, S. Asthana, R. Ayres, H. Sloggett. The Pop-up Centre for Health Technology in Stonehouse. UKRI (Enhancing place-based Partnerships in Public Engagement), 2019-20, £32,401.
R. Sheaff, P. Allen, S. Asthana, J. Clark, M. Exworthy, A. Gibson, R. Mannion, R. Miller. Commissioning, Co-commissioning and Being Commissioned; the NHS and Third Sector Organisations. NIHR, HSRD (18/92 Evaluating approaches to health and care services commissioning and provision with the third sector in the UK). 2019-2022; £800,526.
J. Elston, F. Gradinger, K Husk, S. Asthana, L Burns, R. Byng. Provision of Social Prescribing Evaluation and Research Services for Devon STP. £99,998; Devon Sustainability and Transformation Partnership, 2019-21
R. Byng, S. Asthana. Evaluation of the organisational integration and implementation of new care models in South Devon and Torbay – using a researcher in residence model; £320,244; Torbay and South Devon NHS Trust, 2018-2020
K. Husk, S. Asthana, R Byng. VCSE Cornwall Social Prescribing Evaluation.£14,985; South West ASHN. 2018-20.
S Asthana and A Gibson. Children's services research project for MHCLG. LG Futures/MHCLC, £19,800; March 2018-February 2019.
R. Jones, S. Asthana, M. Phillips. Innovation in Healthy Ageing European Regional Development Fund, £81,982; September 2017-August 2018.
M. Paisey, R. Jones, S. Asthana et al. E-Health Productivity and Innovation in Cornwall (EPIC). European Regional Development Fund, £ 2,730,513; May 2017-April 2020.
S. Asthana, A. Gibson, P. Hewson. Fair funding for rural policing. National Rural Crime Network, £30,931; May-August, 2016
B. Benjamin, S. Asthana, R. Byng. How can multiple initiatives for integrated care improve experience and outcomes for patients with multiple long term conditions in the Torbay and South Devon area? Torbay Medical Research Fund,£161,286; 2016-2018
B. Benjamin, S. Asthana, R. Byng. Evaluation of new system model and development of system wide evaluation framework. £50,000; Torbay and South Devon NHS Trust, 2016-2017
R. Sheaff, P. Allen, J. Clark, R. Mannion, S. Asthana, A. Gibson, J. Halliday. Diverse Healthcare Providers: Behaviour in response to commissioners, patients and innovations, NIHR PRP, £482,758, 2015-17.
S. Asthana. Review of the Police Funding Formula. Police & Crime Commissioners Treasurers’ Society. £4,000. 2014.
R. Sheaff, J. Ovretveit, S, Peckham. R. Byng, M. Exworthy, S. Asthana. Integration and continuity in primary care: polyclinics and alternatives. NIHR (SDO), £414, 950, 2011-2014
S. Asthana, A. Gibson, T. Bailey, P. Hewson, C. Dibben, G. Moon. Equity of Access to Cardiac and Mental Health Services in England. NIHR (Health Services Research Programme), £279,517, 2011-2014.
S. Asthana and J. Halliday. Evaluation of the Peninsula Cancer Network Project for raising Skin Cancer Awareness and Prevention. Peninsula Cancer Network, £29,643, 2009-10
S. Asthana, A. Gibson, J. Halliday, P. Hewson. Resource Allocation in Statutory Service Provision: an Assessment of the Police and Fire Formulae. Rural Services Partnership, £20,222, 2008.
S. Asthana, A. Gibson, T. Bailey, C. Dibbens. Developing a resource allocation formula at General Practice level based on individual patient characteristics (Person-Based Resource Allocation): Mental Health. NIHR (Policy Research Programme), £191,216, 2008
A. Gibson and S. Asthana. Resource Allocation through the Local Government Finance Settlement: How Do Rural Areas Fare? Rural Services Partnership, £18,850, 2008.
C. Hyde, C. Meads, S. Bryan, P. Barton, D. Moore, C. Davenport, J, Parry, J. Deeks, J. Hawker, A. Fry-Smith, S. Bayliss, K. Stein, R. Andersen, N. Britten, R. Garside, S. Asthana, M. Somerville. National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) Centre for Public Health Excellence (CPHE) Public Health Collaborating Centre, National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, £2,212,000; 2008-2011.
S. Asthana, A. Gibson, T. Bailey, C. Dibbens. The feasibility of developing an approach to Person Based Resource Allocation (PBRA) based on epidemiological data. NIHR (Policy Research Programme), £121,269, 2007.
A. Gibson and S. Asthana. NHS resource allocation: does West Sussex get its ‘fair share’? West Sussex County Council, £8,998,2007.
A. Gibson, S. Asthana, J. Flowers. A review of the weighted capitation formula and its funding impact on Primary Care Trusts in the East of England SHA. East of England Strategic Health Authority,£16,171, 2007.
S. Asthana. Meeting Health Needs in Rural Areas, Research Councils UK (Academic Fellowship), £125,000,2005-10.
S. Asthana. Our City’s Health: developing Practical Tool-kits for policies to address Health Inequalities. Plymouth PCT Public Health Department,£20,000, 2003-2004.
S. Asthana, P. Brigham, J. Halliday, A. Gibson, I. Mackenzie, J. Dicker, G. Floyd, G. Moon. Review of the Effectiveness of measuring Rural Deprivation. South West Public Health Observatory, £24,934. 2001.
S. Asthana, A. Gibson, G. Moon, P. Brigham and J. Halliday. Health Resource Allocation: What Case can be made for Rurality? Rural Health Allocations Forum, £59,214.2001-2002.
S. Asthana, A. Gibson, J. Halliday, J. Dixon, G. Moon. Evaluation of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Health Action Zone, £438,751, 2000-2002.
S. Asthana, J. Chandler, J. Dixon and J. Halliday, Partnership Working in Plymouth HAZ, Plymouth HAZ, £65,000, 2000-2002.
S. Asthana, G. Moon, J. Dicker and A. Gibson. Inequalities in Health Service Utilization at the General Practice Level. Economic and Social Research Council, £81,481. 1999-2001.
S. Asthana. The additional costs of delivering health and social services in remote and rural areas. Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Health Authority, £16,500. 1999.
S. Asthana. Health Needs and Service Deficiencies within Plymouth Health Action Zone. Plymouth Health Action Zone and University of Plymouth, £78,000.1998-2001
A. Gibson, S. Asthana and E. Wragg. Parental Choice, Selection by Ability and a ‘Free Market’ in Education: Raising Educational Standards or the Social Polarization of Schools? The Nuffield Foundation. £39,700. 1997-1999.
S. Asthana and A. Gibson. GP Fund holding and the Provision of Primary Health Care: A Socio-Spatial Analysis. University of Plymouth, QR Funds, £18,000. 1996-1997.
S. Asthana.. Community Participation in HIV Prevention and Care in Madras. Nuffield Foundation, £1,540. 1993.
Key publications are highlightedJournals
Convenor, ‘Tackling Health Inequalities, an examination of current policy and practice’, Annual Conference of the Royal Geographical Society and Institute of British Geographers, University of Plymouth, January, 2001.
Convenor, 'International Perspectives on the Geography of Health’. 9th International Medical Geography Symposium, Montreal, 3rd-7th July 2000.
Convenor, 'Reflections on Health Geography on the Millennium'. Annual Conference of the Royal Geographical Society and the Institute of British Geographers, University of Sussex, January, 2000.
Convenor, ‘Gender, Health and Development’, Annual Conference of the Royal Geographical Society and the Institute of British Geographers, University of Leicester, January, 1999.
Convenor, ‘Geographical Implications of the NHS Reforms’, Annual Conference of the Royal Geographical Society and the Institute of British Geographers, University of Exeter, January 1997.
Convenor, ‘New Perspectives on the Geography of Health in a Changing World’, Annual Conference of the Royal Geographical Society and the Institute of British Geographers, University of Exeter, January 1997.
Convenor, Medical Geography, Annual Conference of the Royal Geographical Society and the Institute of British Geographers, 3-6th January, 1996, University of Strathclyde.
Convenor, Workshop on 'Current Debates in Health and Development', held at the Midsessional Conference of the IBG Medical Geography Study Group and the IGU Commission on Health, Environment and Development. 13-15th July, 1993, Crossmead Conference Centre, Exeter, UK.
Convenor, Midsessional Conference of the IBG Medical Geography Study Group and the IGU Commission on Health, Environment and Development. 13-15th July, 1993, Crossmead Conference Centre, Exeter, UK.
Other academic activities
Expert witness or consultancy work
External expert, National Audit Office, Landscape Review on Formula Funding, 2011.
Written and oral evidence presented to the All Party Parliamentary Group (Rural Services) Enquiry on Resource Allocation, 9th February, 2010.
External expert, DEFRA Evidence Investment Strategy, 2009. Written and oral evidence presented to the Health Select Committee’s Inquiry on NHS Deficits, 19th October, 2006
Technical Advisor on Resource Allocation to Rural Health Allocation Project Team, 2001-2003.