GHWRG sponsored sessions at RGS-IBG Annual Conference 2017

The following is a list of sessions and convenor(s), including the AGM and the launch of ‘Health Geographies – A Critical Introduction‘, at the upcoming RGS-IBG Annual Conference that will be held from 29th August – 1st September.

Further information on session times, locations, abstracts and presenters are available here.

Wednesday 30 August

Transformative Stories: Trauma, Therapeutic Geographies and Hope

Jo Little (University of Exeter, UK)
Lia Bryant (University of South Australia, Australia)

The Health Millennium Development Goals: Global Strides, Local Meanders

Anthonia Onyeahialam (Aberystwyth University, UK)

Home futures: towards a critical feminist geography of housing, ageing and health (1)

Karen West (Aston University, UK)
Sheila Peace (The Open University, UK)
Melissa Fernández Arrigoitia (Lancaster University, UK)

Home futures: towards a critical feminist geography of housing, ageing and health (2)

Melissa Fernández Arrigoitia (Lancaster University, UK)
Karen West (Aston University, UK)
Sheila Peace (The Open University, UK)

Thursday 31 August

New and Emerging Research within Geographies of Health and Wellbeing (1)

Gareth Griffith (University of Bristol, UK)
Sarah Bell (University of Exeter, UK)
Samuel Strong (University of Cambridge, UK)

New and Emerging Research within Geographies of Health and Wellbeing (2)

Sarah Bell (University of Exeter, UK)
Samuel Strong (University of Cambridge, UK)
Gareth Griffith (University of Bristol, UK)

Geographies of Health and Wellbeing Research Group AGM

Health in the buffer zone of EU

Izabella Lecka (University of Warsaw, Poland)

Sensing and making sense of ‘nature’ in the context of illness and impairment

Sarah Bell (University of Exeter, UK)
Ronan Foley (National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Ireland)

Book launch and drinks reception: Health Geographies – A Critical Introduction

Friday 01 September

Researcher Trauma: dealing with traumatic research content and places (1)

Christine Eriksen (University of Wollongong, Australia)
Danielle Drozdzewski (University of New South Wales, Australia)
Dale Dominey-Howes (University of Sydney, Australia)

Researcher Trauma: dealing with traumatic research content and places (2)

Christine Eriksen (University of Wollongong, Australia)
Danielle Drozdzewski (University of New South Wales, Australia)
Dale Dominey-Howes (University of Sydney, Australia)



‘Researching Wellbeing’ at the Royal Geographical Society

Authored by Sarah Bell

In April, I had a great opportunity to be part of the ‘Researching Wellbeing’ event, held at the Royal Geographical Society and jointly sponsored by the Geographies of Health and Wellbeing Research Group and the Development Studies Association.

Professor Sarah Atkinson (Durham University) and Professor Sarah White (University of Bath) opened the event, drawing on their respective fields of Geography and Development Studies to give a flavour of some of the key ideas, themes and debates that have come to characterise wellbeing research to date. These themes were then illustrated through case studies presented by Dr Iokine Rodriguez (University of East Anglia) and myself (Dr Sarah Bell, University of Exeter), highlighting some of the challenges and benefits of researching wellbeing at both individual and community levels.

There are huge variations in how people across cultures define, prioritise and experience wellbeing; across much of the Anglo/American literature, there is a tendency to prioritise individual values when we think about wellbeing. As discussed by Sarah Atkinson, we therefore see efforts in policy circles to assess wellbeing at the individual level in terms of its component parts – such as social relationships, health issues, income status, safety and security – before then using aggregates of those measures to inform the allocation of resources across different groups within the population. Although these ‘big data’ sets are deemed important for detecting health and wellbeing inequalities within and across populations, there are three key limitations to this approach.

First, it fails to recognise a community or group as more than the sum of its parts; that social life is bigger than the individuals within it and that one’s wellbeing is often intimately tied up with that of another – be it a person, a place, or more intangible entities such as histories, socio-cultural meanings and values. This creates a paradox whereby dominant discourses of wellbeing are highly individualised, and yet the complexities of individual life are lost in the aggregate measures that are used to inform policy intervention.

Second, it places responsibility for maximising wellbeing upon individuals, thereby shifting the focus away from the socio-cultural, physical, economic, political and historical contexts in which people are embedded (and indeed, for many, constrained by). This shift is reflected in the plethora of interventions targeting ‘behaviour change’, seeking to equip people with the information they need to proactively ‘work’ on their internal wellbeing. Therefore, as noted by Sarah White, while the concept of wellbeing can be democratic, it also lends itself to somewhat intrusive interventions that assume individuals have the agency to enact ‘expert’-prescribed wellbeing behaviours while simultaneously denying their agency to define or prioritise wellbeing practices that make sense in the complex relational contexts of their everyday lives. Reflecting on this, I drew on my current research to discuss how and why people living with vision impairment may or may not come to embody diverse wellbeing practices in nature.

Thirdly, it assumes a somewhat universal conception of wellbeing, thereby failing to engage with deeper and longstanding philosophical debates about ‘a good life’; what constitutes a good life at different times, amongst diverse cultures and in the context of shifting relationships? It overlooks the contrasting interdependent values that underpin notions of wellbeing amongst many other cultures, and paints wellbeing as an endpoint rather than a process that could support progress towards wider collective goals, such as those linked to sustainability or environmental justice. As illustrated by Iokine Rodriguez, for example, fostering intercultural relationships that support the identification of mutually respected notions of wellbeing can be integral for transforming environmental conflicts within indigenous territories.

Looking ahead, we discussed the need to address such tensions in how wellbeing is constructed and measured; in particular, we noted the need for more critical reflection regarding the research methods we use to understand diverse cultures of wellbeing and how they emerge, evolve and shift both spatially and temporally across different groups and communities, at different (often intersecting) scales of analysis.

For more detailed insights into some of these themes, do look at the edited collection ‘Wellbeing and Place’ produced by Sarah Atkinson, and Sarah White’s new volume, ‘Cultures of Wellbeing: Method Place Policy’, which was launched at this event.


GHWRG at the PGF Mid-term Conference, Cardiff.

Our postgraduate representatives for the GHWRG, Gareth Griffith (University of Bristol) and Cornelia Van Diepen (University of Portsmouth) attended the RGS Postgraduate Mid-Term Conference in Cardiff. They had this to say about the event:

The RGS Mid-Term was great. It was an excellent coming together of a great number of enthusiastic and friendly early-career researchers eager to connect with each other and find out about each others’ work. The atmosphere of the conference is especially good for those new to post-graduate academia, being populated mostly by PhD and Masters students presenting findings from their projects. It didn’t necessitate findings to be of use, however, several fascinating and hugely beneficial presentations put forward the initial plans and ideas of the project that the student was yet to embark upon. This allowed them to receive relevant advice, ideas and contact info for interested peers.

midterm emojisGareth explaining mental health through emojis (Photo: @Kim 24501)

The health geographies session was a great opportunity to connect and discuss our work with others in the field and showcased a wide range of topics, perspectives and methodologies which highlighted exciting and diverse research emerging in and around the geographies of health and wellbeing, including:

midterm1Farouk Umar (University of Sheffield) on healthcare in Kano (Photo: @PGF_RGSIBG)


Phil Emmerson (University of Birmingham) discussing laughter with care (Photo: @PGF_RGSIBG)

The keynote speakers were great, and the presenters friendly and welcoming, as were the informal networking meetings for the research groups which presented a great opportunity, again, for early career researchers to meet peers in their field. The delegates all engaged really positively with the work presented, although I’m generalising from the sessions I attended – and feedback was constructive, informative and helpful. Given the audience I actually edited my presentation the night before to take out some of the hard line quantitative visuals, and add some more relatable non-technical language, as an experiment to see if I could pull it off. It went down really well, and provided confidence for me going forward with presenting that kind of stuff. I’d really recommend being ambitious or trying something different with the presentations, as it is rare to get such a friendly and forgiving audience to trial ideas in front of!

On top of this, there are really helpful workshops run for early career researchers, including publishing, writing and data scrutiny courses. In fact, the only criticism of the whole would be the usual one with conferences, that because there are so many interesting sessions concurrently – you might not see all that you intended. I returned home with an interest and increased knowledge in topics including but not limited to: Guerilla Geographies, Community Housing Projects, Street Children, Zimbabwean food culture and British Somali FGM attitudes. Moreover, all the people who talked about these topics were chatty and willing to put up with my initial ignorance of their topic.

If it wasn’t already transparent – I’d definitely recommend the Midterm to any early career researcher looking to get a feel of the academic scope of geographical research, as well as scoring some presentation practice and meeting some wicked people along the way. GHWRG looks forward to seeing you there next year!

Youth Wellbeing Network

Ruth Evans, University of Reading, in collaboration with Fiona Samuels, Overseas Development Institute and Morten Skovdal, University of Copenhagen, has recently established Youth Wellbeing Network, a global network of policymakers, practitioners, researchers and youth supporting a holistic approach to young people’s psychosocial wellbeing, care and support.

Please like our Facebook page and join our group to network, share resources and information about events:

GHWRG Annual Undergraduate Dissertation Prize 2017

Geographies of Health and Wellbeing Research Group (GHWRG) Annual Undergraduate  Dissertation Prize sponsored by the international journal Health and Place published by Elsevier.

The GHWRG offers an annual dissertation prize of £100 to the dissertation that exhibits the best theoretical and/or methodological contribution to any issue relating to the Geographies of Health and Wellbeing.  The prize is open to any currently-registered undergraduate student in a UK university. The dissertation should usually be of first class standard and be submitted by the Head of Department or a nominated representative with the student’s knowledge.

The document should be sent as a single pdf file to the GHWRG Dissertation Convener, Dr. Matthew Callender, University of Northampton. E-mail:

Please include a contact e-mail address for the student (post-graduation if necessary).

Please note that a department may not submit more than one entry for consideration.

Deadline for submission: 4th July 2017

GHWRG at RGS-IBG PG Forum Mid-Term Conf (19th-21st April)


The RGS-IBG Postgraduate Forum Mid-Term Conference (19th – 21st April 2017) is fast approaching and the Geographies of Health and Wellbeing Research Group will be there with a research group reception on Wednesday 19th at 16.00. Come say hello to our PG reps Gareth and Cornelia!

Paper session:
Block 3: ‘Health and Wellbeing’ on Friday 21st April between 10.50- 12.40 in Room 1.75.

Chair: Prof. Mark Jayne (Cardiff University)

Cornelia van Diepen (University of Portsmouth): ‘Understanding health risk co-behaviours through Twitter.’

Farouk Abdulkadir Umar – ‘Combining Multiple population data in profiling access to healthcare facilities in Kano State.’

Gareth Griffith (University of Bristol) – ‘How do they cope? The differential impact of the Economic Recession on the Mental Health of the UK.’

Valentine Seymour (UCL) – ‘Measuring nature’s impact on health: A volunteering case study.’

Phil Emmerson (University of Birmingham) – Laughing and caring bodies – the conceptual, practical and affective spacing(s) between two (or more) ‘subjects’


Walk and Talk: ‘Health and the Water Meadows landscape’, Winchester – 20/05/17

A ‘Walk and Talk’ event, held in partnership with the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) Geographies of Health and Wellbeing Research Group (GHWRG).

All are welcome to join a Walk and Talk to explore the outdoors and talk about:

‘Health and the Water Meadows landscape in Winchester.’


Weaving through Winchester Cathedral, Winchester College and the St. Cross Alms House, is a stunning walk known as the Water Meadows. We ask those attending to consider the differences in how care was given and received over the Centuries, from alms houses to the current welfare state. The walk will also offer the opportunity to discuss geographies of health and wellbeing.

Join us on Saturday, May 20th 2017 at 11am for a 30 minute walk around the Water Meadows. Meet at the base of the King Alfred Statue at the bottom of the High Street in Winchester. This will be a relaxed event to connect with other members of the GHWRG and anyone else with an interest in health and wellbeing.

Contact: Andy Power

Download this invitation: Winchester Walk and Talk