Healthy and Sustainable Settings

Exploring how a range of settings work as complex systems is helping to improve our understanding of them and deliver effective, sustainable health improvement for people, place and planet.

Healthy Settings


Research, development and knowledge transfer activity within the Healthy and Sustainable Settings Unit focuses on the promotion of health, wellbeing and sustainable development in a range of organisational and place-based settings. By examining specific settings, exploring how they function as complex systems and mapping the linkages between them, it is possible to increase understanding of how effective health improvement can be developed.

Attracting funding from key regional, national and international bodies, the Unit has been able to make meaningful impact in the following areas;

  • Conceptual research, contributing to the development of theory and praxis in the field of healthy and sustainable settings, with a focus on highlighting and addressing key challenges;
  • Evaluative research on programmes within different settings, focusing on the use of qualitative methods in order to deepen understanding of how and why different interventions work in particular contexts;
  • Action-focused research within the context of implementation programmes, informing the development and delivery of the settings approach, with a focus on exploring connections between health, sustainable development and equity.

To find out more about research in the Healthy & Sustainable Settings Unit, contact:

Professor Mark Dooris Email:
Dr Michelle Baybutt Email:
Dr Alan Farrier Email:
Dr Ursula Pool Email:


The Healthy & Sustainable Settings Unit’s portfolio of research, development and programme implementation is explicitly oriented to ensure ‘real-world’ impact. Examples include:

Higher Education: Groundbreaking research conducted by the Healthy and Sustainable Settings Unit has been instrumental to the adoption of the ‘whole system’ settings approach to promoting health and wellbeing within higher education. Resulting impacts are institutional (adoption/implementation of Healthy Universities model by higher education institutions, supported by the UK Healthy Universities Network, co-ordinated and co-chaired by Mark Dooris), national (growing appreciation of value of Healthy Universities approach by national bodies) and international (publication of an International Charter and establishment of an International Network and Steering Group chaired by Mark Dooris).

Criminal Justice: The Healthy & Sustainable Settings Unit’s therapeutic horticulture programme, Greener on the Outside for Prisons, has contributed learning and innovation regionally and nationally – impacting positively on the health, wellbeing, safety and rehabilitation of some of the most vulnerable people in society. Evaluative research has informed future strategic and system-level planning for offender management and health and justice, whilst also levering further research and implementation funding. The programme has also connected with the work of the World Health Organisation’s Collaborating Centre on Health in Prisons and Health in Prisons Programme.

Healthy Settings: From 2007-2012, Mark Dooris chaired the International Union for Health Promotion and Education’s Global Working Group on Healthy Settings (now an interest group) – and in recognition of his leadership in this field has been keynote speaker at numerous international conferences, thereby influencing further research, policy and practice.

Healthy Cities: Mark Dooris was also a member of the evaluation team for Phases III and IV of the World Health Organisation’s European Healthy Cities initiative.

Related Case Studies