Perceptions of air pollution, health and COVID in BAME communities”


Supervisor: Benjamin Barratt

Non-accademic partner: Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity (GSTT)

Studentship start date: October 2021

Application deadline: 1 February 2021

Application details:

The studentship is available both full-time or part-time.

It is widely recognised that air pollution is a public health concern accountable for numerous health problems and tens of thousands of premature deaths per year in the UK. Though air pollution is a problem faced by everybody, research has shown that those living in neighbourhoods of low social economic status (SES) are more likely to be exposed to higher air pollution levels. In addition, those with underlying health conditions, including diabetes, heart and lung disease are more susceptible to its health effects. This equity gap has recently become more apparent with the COVID-19 pandemic, as air pollution has been linked to poor health outcomes of COVID-19, with a disproportionately high impact within the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) population. The reasons for this are not yet known but are likely to relate to existing vulnerabilities including health complications, low SES, absence of choice and awareness. In recent years, public awareness campaigns aimed at presenting actionable measures to the public to reduce pollution emissions and protect themselves from exposure have become increasingly important for governmental institutions and non-governmental agencies. However, there is little evidence on how these approaches have impacted the public’s perceptions of urban air pollution, especially the extent to which people’s social contexts influence the way they think and feel about air pollution. There is a particular need for evidence on how these initiatives have impacted BAME groups’ understandings of air pollution and its associated health effects, partly due to bias in the composition of public panels. The very visible presence of face masks on our streets during 2020 has made people think about what they breathe and the effect of what is in our air much more. Despite big differences in how each risk affects our health, this increased awareness has created perceived connections between COVID-19, air pollution and health. However, this connection is currently anecdotal and we do not have a good understanding of how the COVID-19 pandemic will influence people’s perceptions of air quality and health. Understanding how perceptions of air pollution influence behavioural and lifestyle choices is important for the design of health and wellbeing initiatives targeted at communities most at risk . This study aim is to investigate vulnerable and minority ethnic groups’ perceptions of the relationship between air pollution and health and how this relationship has been impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. The empirical evidence gathered from this research has the potential to contribute to understandings on the acceptability, engagement and impact of current governmental and non-governmental efforts to address the air pollution problem. The outcomes from this research can be used to inform local administrators, public health officers and non-governmental bodies on the development of strategies to engage with communities to communicate air pollution and to stimulate changes in behaviour to reduce exposure.