Oral Health and Health Research Programme

Professor Ruth Freeman, as Director of the Oral Health and Health Research (OHHR) programme, leads a programme of research which uses the Medical Research Council (MRC) framework for complex interventions as a structure from which the research evidence is systematically reviewed, modelling change theory conducted and feasibility trials piloted.

The programme is focused on the three main areas: behavioural sciences, health promotion and health disparities. Developing from previous work on health inequalities and social gradients of health, the OHHR programme focuses on groups within society who may be described as socially excluded. This aspect of the OHHR programme tackles issues of health disparities, inequality and exclusion through partnership working with NHS Boards, national and international collaborators.

The OHHR programme is grounded in the theoretical discipline of psychodynamic psychology which provides a firm footing to understand the difficulties encountered in behaviour change, the complexities of dental anxiety, the role of communication in the treatment alliance and the role of early childhood material and emotional deprivation upon adult health disparities and social exclusion. The dynamic quality of this programme of research allows the position of determinants of oral health and health to be examined. It is the exploration of these determinants that allows an understanding of how community capacity can assist in providing a solution to promote health in the most deprived and socially excluded. Thus the OHHR programme adopts the twin approaches of qualitative and quantitative methodologies in order to gain an understanding of the main concerns of individuals within their communities prior to the development, implementation and evaluation of community development programmes to promote and maintain health. The programme is underpinned by the concept of a common risk factor approach to promoting oral health and health and so examines links between common determinants of health. Working in this way allows for collaborations outside of the oral health arena with social scientists both within Scotland and Europe.

The purpose of this research programme is to reduce health inequality by addressing oral health as an indication and predictor of health and psycho-social functioning. Researching the evidence-base and using a mixed methods approach ensures that by understanding people's main concerns will permit tailoring and achieve engagement with health interventions for those from socially excluded groups. It achieves this aim by providing high quality research and being successful in securing CSO funding, Research Council funding (EPSRC) and grant income from industry and the Scottish Government.

The Oral Health and Health Research programme focuses on the research questions around:

  • What leads to a greater understanding of oral health inequalities and disparities?
  • How can implementation of oral health and health promotion programmes reduce inequalities for socially excluded populations?
  • How can methodology assist in evaluating oral health and health promotion programmes for socially excluded populations?

Trials and Studies