Photo of Em P Margaret Whitehead

Em P Margaret Whitehead DBE, PhD, FFPH, FMedSci, FHEA

Public Health, Policy & Systems


Personal Statement

I hold the W.H. Duncan Chair of Public Health in the Department of Public Health and Policy, where I am a member and former lead of the ‘Health Inequalities and Policy’ research group. My expertise is in public health, health inequalities, social epidemiology, health and social policy analysis, evidence synthesis.

My passionate interest for over thirty years has been social inequalities in health – most especially what can be done to tackle them. To this end, I have served on every major inquiry on the subject from the updating of the Black Report in ‘the Health Divide’, to the Acheson Inquiry, the Review of Health Inequalities in England Post-2010. and the Senior Advisory Board of the WHO European Review of Social Determinants of Health and the Health Divide.

In 2014, I chaired the Independent Inquiry into Health Equity for the North of England (the Due North Report), commissioned by Public Health England, which sets out recommendations for Northern agencies to work together across sectors, as well as for central government to play its full part. Since then, I have been actively involved in initiatives with the many agencies involved to take forward the research agenda stemming from the Due North recommendations.

From 2005 to 2020, I was the founding Head of the World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Policy Research on Determinants of Health Equity, hosted in the Department of Public Health, Policy and Systems. The Centre’s work for WHO has encompassed a full range of issues from ethics to action, including concepts and principles of equity for health, strategies for tackling social inequalities in health, and an initiative to develop indicators of policy progress across Europe. The Centre has now been re-designated by WHO for a further 4-year programme of work with WHO, under the new directorship of Prof. Ben Barr, and with my active involvement.

I was awarded a Damehood in the 2016 New Year Honours list for services to public health, and in particular the field of health inequalities.

In 2018 I was selected by the Royal Colleges of Physicians of the UK as an ‘Outstanding ‘Woman in Medicine’ for the RCP’s celebratory exhibition of 'women in medicine'.

In 2019, I was nominated as one of the nation's top 100 'lifesavers' by Universities UK in their 2019 awareness-raising campaign MadeAtUni.

I was ranked in the top 1% most cited researchers worldwide in my field in the 2021 list from Clarivate: annual list "identifies researchers who demonstrated significant influence in their chosen field through the publication of multiple highly cited papers during the last decade”.

2022 – 23: I am currently Chair of the Independent Review of Equity in Medical Devices, set up by the Secretary of State for Health, to investigate ethnic and other unfair biases in medical devices used in the NHS and to make recommendations for improvements.

Prizes or Honours

  • Selected by the Royal Colleges of Physicians of the UK as an ‘Outstanding ‘Woman in Medicine’ for the RCP’s celebratory exhibition of ‘women in medicine’ (Royal College of Physicians, 2018)
  • Alwyn Smith Award of the Faculty of Public Health of the Royal Colleges of Physicians for contribution to improving the health of the public. (Faculty of Public Health of the Royal Colleges of Physicians, 2018)
  • Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (Academy of Medical Sciences , 2017)
  • Awarded a Damehood for services to public health, and in particular the field of health inequalities (Queen's New Year's Honours List, 2016)
  • Life Membership of the Society for Social Medicine for services to population health. (Society for Social Medicine, 2014)
  • Visiting Professorship, Karolinska Institute, 2013-16 (Karoliska Institute, Stockholm, 2013)
  • Fellowship of the Faculty of Public Health (Royal Colleges of Physicians, 2001)