Imperial College London


Faculty of MedicineSchool of Public Health

Lecturer in Environmental Social Science and Health







Building E - Sir Michael UrenWhite City Campus





Publication Type

7 results found

Tan T, Junghans C, Varaden D, 2023, Empowering community health professionals for effective air pollution information communication., BMC Public Health, Vol: 23

BACKGROUND: Air pollution remains a significant public health risk, particularly in urban areas. Effective communication strategies remain integral to overall protection by encouraging the adoption of personal air pollution exposure reduction behaviours. This study aims to explore how community health professionals can be empowered to communicate air pollution information and advice to the wider community, to encourage the uptake of desired behaviours in the population. METHODS: The study adopted a qualitative methodology, where four homogenous Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) were held with a range of community health professionals, including Health Care Professionals, Community Health and Wellbeing Workers (CHWWs) and Social Prescribing Link Workers (SPLW). A classical content analysis was conducted with the Structural Empowerment Theory (SET) and Psychological Empowerment Theory (PET) as guiding concepts. RESULTS: Five key themes were identified: from a structural empowerment perspective: [1] resources and support, [2] knowledge. From a psychological empowerment perspective: [3] confidence as advisor, [4] responsibility as advisor, and [5] residents' receptiveness to advice. It was concluded that advice should be risk stratified, clear, easy to follow and provide alternatives. CONCLUSION: This study identified ways for community health professionals to be empowered by local councils or other organisations in providing advice on air pollution, through the provision of essential structural support and opportunities to enhance their knowledge and confidence in the subject. Implementing recommendations from this study would not only empower community health professionals to advise on air pollution to the wider community but also increase adherence to health advice.

Journal article

Lim S, Bassey E, Bos B, Makacha L, Varaden D, Arku RE, Baumgartner J, Brauer M, Ezzati M, Kelly FJ, Barratt Bet al., 2022, Comparing human exposure to fine particulate matter in low and high-income countries: A systematic review of studies measuring personal PM<sub>2.5</sub> exposure, SCIENCE OF THE TOTAL ENVIRONMENT, Vol: 833, ISSN: 0048-9697

Journal article

Varaden D, Leidland E, Lim S, Barratt Bet al., 2021, "I am an air quality scientist"- Using citizen science to characterise school children's exposure to air pollution, ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH, Vol: 201, ISSN: 0013-9351

Journal article

Varaden D, Barratt B, Heather K, Rushton Eet al., 2021, Engaging primary students with the issue of air pollution through citizen science: lessons to be learnt, Journal of Emergent Science

Journal article

Varaden D, 2019, Developing and testing methods to engage communities in air quality issues: an air pollution case study in London

Exposure to air pollution is a public health concern accountable for numerous health problems and tens of thousands of premature deaths each year in the UK. Despite this evidence, public understanding and awareness of the issue is low in comparison to other public health risks. Improved methods for engaging with the public to communicate this risk are required. Participatory research methods have been used in the air pollution field predominantly in unpublished work. However, there is still a lack of systematic empirical evidence on the feasibility of using this approach with diverse members of the community and on the impact that this approach can have on people’s views and perceptions of air pollution. Bringing together natural and social science techniques, this interdisciplinary PhD research aims to investigate the feasibility and impact of using participatory research interventions which involve the collection of personalised exposure data, with community groups to raise awareness of air pollution and identify potential solutions. Over 500 individuals, belonging to five community groups in London - including a primary school, a senior citizens group, a Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) patient group, and a parent and baby group – were recruited to take part in participatory research projects. The projects began with the provision of information on air pollution causes and effects. Subsequently, using portable exposure monitors and GPS watches, a subset of individuals from each group measured their own exposure to air pollution in the course of their normal activities. Each participant received a summary of their own findings and the overall results of the project were shared with all members of the community groups. Participants also included a group of activists and politicians who had taken part in similar projects, but on their own accord. Data on the impact of the participation in the projects were collected using observations, survey

Thesis dissertation

Varaden D, Einar L, Barratt B, 2019, The Breathe London Wearables Study Engaging primary school children to monitor air pollution in London, London, Publisher: Greater London Authority

Exposure to air pollution is a public health concern accountable for wide ranging health problems and tens of thousands of premature deaths each year in the UK. Children are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of air pollution. In order to understand how children are exposed to this risk,and where and when the risks are highest, during spring 2019, five London primary schools took part in the Breathe London Wearables study. The aimwas to characterise London school children’s exposure to air pollution and present this information in a way that the school community could understand, relate and act upon. The five participating schools were part of the 2017 Mayor’s School Air Quality Audit Programme, carried out in50 primary schools located in the most polluted areas of London.More than 250 children across the five schools were given wearable sensors to carry to and from school for a period of five school days. Throughoutthis project, the participating children had access to air quality educational lessons delivered by King’s College London’s air quality scientists and Dysonengineers. During this study, children became ‘scientists’ too by helping measure air pollution using special backpacks with state-of-the-art airquality sensors inside. This study actively engaged the children in scientific investigation, improving literacy and nurturing their curiosity in science, theenvironment and their health. Thanks to our enthusiastic and dedicated young air quality scientists, we were able to gather 490 million measurements. This unique data set gave us the opportunity to compare the different routes and modes of transport used by the children andadults, allowing us to quantify different exposure levels. The results from this study showed that on average, across all participating schools, the children were exposed to higher levels of air pollution when travelling to and from school, particularly during the morning journey compare


Varaden D, McKevitt C, Barratt B, 2018, Making the invisible visible: Engaging school children in monitoring air pollution in London, Research for All, Vol: 2, Pages: 267-288

Exposure to air pollution is a public health concern accountable for numerous health problems and tens of thousands of premature deaths each year in the UK. Despite this evidence, public understanding and awareness of the issue is low in comparison to other public health risks. Improved methods for engaging with the public to communicate this risk are required. This study aimed to investigate the impact of collecting personalized air pollution exposure data on children and parents from a London primary school in terms of perceptions of and responses to air quality. Drawing on a participatory research approach, 400 children from a London primary school learnt about air pollution. A subset of ten children measured the air pollution they were exposed to as they travelled to and from school using portable exposure monitors and GPS watches, and shared the data they collected with the whole school. Data on the impact of the approach on the school community were collected using observations, surveys distributed to all school children and their parents, and interviews with the parents and children who collected the air pollution data. Most participants said that having access to personalized data that they themselves collected increased their air pollution awareness and their desire to reduce their air pollution exposure. The children's participation in the project inspired them to think about ways in which they could influence other people's behaviour, such as proposing anti-idling campaigns and encouraging their parents to cycle or walk to school. The use of participatory methods has the potential to facilitate the dissemination of information from a small group of individuals to a bigger audience. This study suggests that participatory methods can be implemented in practice, and they have the potential to be effective and engaging tools for raising awareness of air pollution as a health risk in communities.

Journal article

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