Plymouth Pioneers.  Professor Sheena Asthana

Sheena Asthana, Professor in Health Policy, is Director of the Plymouth Institute for Health and Care Research (PIHR)She is a leading advocate for improved distribution of funds to ensure fairer access to healthcare for all, focusing her attention on communities disproportionately lacking in support.

Addressing health inequalities in rural and coastal communities

Sheena’s expertise ranges from developing community-based health strategies for people vulnerable to HIV/AIDS in India, health inequalities and evidence-based public health to uncovering inequalities in the provision and use of public services in the UK.

Her main research focus is on national resource allocation formulae, challenging how funds and services are distributed with a view to closing inequality gaps in access to health care, education and other public services. Her work has focused on the systematic bias in public sector funding against rural and coastal areas which have faced significant under-resourcing of services and more frequently experience organisational stress (such as deficits) than urban areas. She was the first to propose an approach to health resource allocation that is rooted in direct needs (such as morbidity) rather than the mainstream approach which derives service needs estimates from the previous utilisation of resources.

Thought leadership

Forget about the North-South divide, children in coastal communities are being left behind

Why are we still talking about the North-South divide? Why have the many problems facing coastal communities been overlooked in media, academic, policy and political accounts of deprivation in modern Britain? Read more about deprivation among children in coastal communities

Representing people to change policy and practice

Sheena has been an active participant in advocating for, and informing policy changes in health inequality, through her roles with the Commission for Rural Communities, the Royal Society for Public Health, the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE), and the Advisory Committee for Resource Allocation (ACRA) run by the Department of Health and Social Care.

She has given evidence to UK Parliament numerous times, most recently to the Education Select Committee with Dr Alex Gibson to highlight the very poor educational achievement of children living in coastal areas. Their work on local government funding models damaged the credibility of how revenue support was previously allocated and their identification of the ‘Wokingham Effect’ contributed to the decision to end the flawed four-block model. Sheena and Alex have also contributed a chapter to the Chief Medical Officer’s (2021) report on Coastal Health, noting that coastal communities face a higher health burden than non-coastal communities across a range of disease categories. This health deficit is more than simply a product of higher levels of deprivation and older populations. Sheena is particularly concerned about worrying trends in public health outcomes for children and young people living on the periphery.

The person behind the pioneer

Shaping how billions of pounds is spent on healthcare access across the UK.

Read more about Professor Sheena Asthana

Everyone deserves fair access to healthcare and, whatever I’m doing, that is in the front of my mind. We need to make a better clarification between addressing health inequalities and promoting equal access to equal need; making sure that the people who need the healthcare access are able to get it, and it’s not dependent on a postcode lottery while efforts to close gaps in health status focus on the underlying determinants of health.

Professor Sheena Asthana

Champion for health

Our research tackles the most pressing public health issues to improve the health and care of the populations we serve. We have a vibrant community of interdisciplinary research that is truly cutting-edge, from disease discovery to innovative care practices, novel treatments to clinical trials. We are at the forefront of research into the mechanisms, treatments and best care practices for areas including brain tumours, Parkinson’s disease, ageing communities, digital health, antibiotic resistance, and health inequalities.

Our close partnership with the University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, together with the Derriford Research Facility, place us on the frontline of applied research from the laboratory to the patients across medicine, dentistry and healthcare professions.

Plymouth Institute of Health and Care Research

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