Dr. Karen Whittaker

Reader in Child and Family Health

School of Nursing

Brook Building, BB325

+44 (0) 1772 89 3786

Subject Areas: Health, Nursing and Midwifery, Public Health, Social Care

Dr Karen Whittaker leads the Child and Family Health research theme group referred to as SEaRCCH,  (Supporting Evaluation and Research in Child and Community Health) within the School of Nursing. Her research is within the field of parenting, family support, health visiting and child health using realist evaluation methods. Her post-doctoral work was with The National Nursing Research Unit, Kings College London. Karen works internationally with UNICEF-CEE/CIS and International Step by Step Association (ISSA) supporting knowledge exchange and translation for nurse home visitors promoting early child development.  

Karen on Twitter
Research HVCH on Twitter

Full Profile

Karen leads the Child and Family Health research theme group referred to as SEaRCCH,  (Supporting Evaluation and Research in Child and Community Health) within the School of Nursing. She is an Institute of Health Visiting Fellow and Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Karen’s professional background is in nursing and health visiting previously practicing as a health visitor in the city of Salford and later in Lancashire. She has held a number of academic roles as a research assistant, research fellow, senior lecturer and now working within the School of Nursing as a Reader in Child and family Health. She originally joined the University of Central Lancashire in 1998 as a senior lecturer to deliver educational programmes for health visitors and community nurses. She gained experience as a course leader for undergraduate and post-graduate Specialist Community Public Health Nursing programmes, as a Research Degrees Tutor and currently supports doctorate students within the Faculty of Health and Wellbeing at UCLan. She also has undertaken external examining duties at universities across the UK and internationally.

Her own doctorate and post-doctorate research has involved the application of realist evaluation methods to examine parenting and family support. With a particular interest in health visiting/ public health nursing, she joined a team at the National Nursing Research Unit, King’s College London to complete a national review of health visiting, including an empirical study of recruitment and retention issues.  Her research and educational experience has enabled her to establish and co-facilitate the North of England Health Visitor and Child Health Research Network (information via Twitter: @research_hvch and Eventbrite) established in 2013 with Dr Sue Peckoever at Sheffield Hallam University. Karen also contributes to the UNICEF Central and Eastern Europe International Technical Advisory Group on Home Visiting. In parallel, she has partnered with the International Step by Step Association (ISSA) to develop educational resources for nurse home visitors promoting early child development and has co-delivered nurse home visiting training in Serbia, Bulgaria and Turkmenistan.

Karen is an editorial board member of the Journal of Health Visiting and she is peer reviewer for a number of health and social care journals. She is a committee member of the Global Network of Public Health Nurses and has previously chaired the UK Standing Conference on Specialist Community Public Health Nurse Education.


  • PhD: A Realistic Evaluation of Parenting Support Services, King’s College London, 2008. 
  • MSc (Masters by Nursing Research) University of Manchester, 1998
  • PGCert in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, UCLan, 2003
  • BN (1st Class Hons), with RGN and HVCert, University of Manchester, 1989
  • FiHV – Fellow of the Institute of health Visiting
  • Registered Nurse Teacher: (NMC), 2006
  • PGCert in Research Student Supervision, UCLan & SEDA, 2010

Membership of Professional and Learned Bodies

  • 2006 – present: Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA)
  • 2014 – 2017  Chair of UK Standing Conference for Specialist Community Public Health Nurse Education
  • 2014 March Awarded Educator of the Year by Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association (CPHVA)
  • 2015 March  Made a Fellow of the Institute of Health Visiting  (iHV)

Teaching activities and responsibilities 

  • Postgraduate research modules
  • Research degree director of studies 


Malone, M., Whittaker, K.A., Cowley, S. Grigulis, A., Donetto, S., and Maben, J. (2016) Health visitor education for today's Britain: educational messages from a narrative review of the health visitor literature. Nurse Education Today Available online 28 April 2016  doi:10.1016/j.nedt.2016.04.007

Whittaker, K. A., Malone, M., Cowley, S., Grigulis, A., Nicholson, C., & Maben, J. (2015). Making a difference for children and families: An appreciative inquiry of health visitor values and why they start and stay in post. Health & Social Care in the Community, Article first published online: 19 NOV 2015,DOI: 10.1111/hsc.12307

Cowley S, Whittaker K A, Malone M, Donetto S, Grigulis A, Maben J (2014) Why health visiting? Examining the potential public health benefits from health visiting practice within a universal service: a narrative review of the literature. International Journal of Nursing Studies. DOI: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2014.07.013

Whittaker, K. Cox, P. Thomas, N. Cocker, K. (2014) A qualitative study of parents’ experiences using family support services: applying the concept of surface and depth. Health and Social Care in the Community. DOI: 10.1111/hsc.12101

More publications

External Activities

Fellow of the Institute of Health Visiting  (iHV)





RESEARCH Activities

Other research has concerned a child health Telehealth service evaluation and a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) project to transfer learning from child accident prevention to develop a Falls prevention programme. She works closely with NHS partners to develop and deliver research and evaluation in practice.  This currently includes work with Lancashire Care Foundation NHS Trust to evaluate ChatHealth, an SMS messaging service for children and young people to access school nursing services. Karen is also a co-investigator on the E-SEE (Enhancing Social-Emotional Health and Wellbeing in the Years) trial, led by Professor Tracy Bywater at York University. The E-SEE study is a community based randomised controlled trial and economic evaluation of a universal progressive service model delivering the Incredible Years Infant and Toddler (0-2) Parenting Programmes.