Accessibility statement

Implications for public health: research of models and theories of disability

A major new review aims to identify and assess different theories of disability and use this knowledge to critically appraise public health interventions where people with disabilities are a key target group. Public health interventions which are effective in the general population are often assumed to apply to people with disabilities, however, evidence for this is limited and there is a need for more inclusive and better informed research. Given the public health challenges facing the UK population, it is especially important, to ensure interventions are relevant to people’s lives.

The researchers led by Professor Karl Atkin with Dr Maria Berghs and Professor Hilary Graham from the Department of Health Sciences and involving partners at the University of Lancaster, won £210,000 from an NIHR Public Health Research grant to conduct this review.

The first stage will look at research assessing different models and theories of disability to assess what disability actually means in different contexts. It will develop the basis of critique which will then be applied in the second phase of the research.

The second stage will take the concepts and theories identified in stage one, and apply them to public health research. It will involve utilising existing effectiveness reviews of health-related interventions from premier international sources (The Cochrane Library of Intervention Reviews, the Campbell Collaboration and the Joanna Briggs Institute) in order to assess the effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness, of public health interventions on those who live with disabilities or impairments. It will aim to offer advice and recommendations on the factors that need to be taken into account when doing research with disabled people.

User engagement will be critical to the approach of the review and a steering committee of relevant stakeholders will be appointed. The review’s findings will also be tested on a critical audience of politically active disabled people, in addition to commissioners and researchers.

This is the link to the NIHR web site for the project:



Funder(s):  National Institute for Health Research – Public Health Research
Start Date: May 2014
End Date: October 2015


Internal Staff

  • Maria Berghs

External collaborators

Public Health and Society Research in the Department of Health Sciences