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Wolfson Institute of Population Health

Dr Heather McMullen


Senior Lecturer

Centre: Centre for Public Health & Policy



I am a social scientist in the Global Public Health Unit in the Centre for Public Health and Policy, Wolfson Institute of Population Health. I am the course lead for Gender, Sexuality and Health on the MSc in Global Public Health.

My academic work tends to engage themes of bodily autonomy, stigma and complexity and aims to make a contribution to creating greater visibility, social justice and engagement with complex topics. 

Much of my work to date has related to sexual and reproductive rights and health (SRHR) and reproductive justice.  I have also held roles in this field outside of academia including with the International Planned Parenthood Federation, the World Health Organisation and others. I have undertaken research and community projects on HIV testing, young parenthood, access to contraception, youth sexual health and the intersection between climate change and SRHR.

I currently lead on a partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on climate and SRHR.  I also collaborate on work from an anthropological perspective on reproduction and the environment.  I am a visiting scholar at Cambridge University in the Reproductive Sociology group during 2022.

I have previous experience in youth work and also collaborate on research related to youth violence in East London with an interdisciplinary team.  Our current project aims to better understand the public health response to serious youth violence through a range of methods and perspectives.

I held a Doctoral Fellowship from the National Institute of Health Research between 2013 and 2016 (supervisors: Professors Trisha Greenhalgh and Chris Griffiths). I find research methods, the production of evidence and different ways of knowing and accounting for phenomena very interesting. My work explored the experience of a randomised controlled trial on HIV testing using a range of methods including autoethnography and process evaluation and produced an account of the trial that reflected on complexity, pragmatism and situated ways of accounting for evidence in public health.


Research Interests:

Health Engagement to Avoid interpersonal injury in young Londoners (HEAL) explores the public health response to serious youth violence. Working with a team comprised of trauma surgeons, violence reduction nurses, psychiatrists, public health experts and anthropologists, the study is helping to build the picture of violent knife injury in East London to inform future intervention.

UNFPA and QMUL Partnership:  Exploring the intersections and the evidence on sexual and reproductive rights and health and climate change:   We have produced a range of reports and publications helping make clear the impacts of climate change on sexual and reproductive health, rights and justice in an aim to ensure this important dimensions of climate justice is not left behind in climate and health policy. 

(In)fertile Environments: Exploring reproductive agency as climate change activism is a collaborative research project between Heather McMullen and Katharine Dow. Through qualitative interviews and the analysis of testimonials we explore how the climate crisis is reshaping kinship and reproductive choices.

The Community and Provider driven Social Accountability Intervention (CaPSAI) study - led by the World Health Organisation RHR - explores the impact of social accountability interventions on contraceptive uptake and use in Ghana and Tanzania.

The RHIVA 2 Trial was a trial of Rapid HIV Testing in Primary Care. We explored whether offering rapid HIV testing in general practice supported the detection of HIV and at an earlier stage. 

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