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Department of Geography

Staff Profile

Professor Sarah E. Curtis, BA (Hons) (Oxon), DPhil, FBA,FAcSS,FRGS

Professor in the Department of Geography
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Professor Sarah Curtis is an internationally recognised specialist in the geography of health and wellbeing. Her scholarship explores how and why places matter for human health. Her work concentrates on socio-geographical conditions and processes that are associated with inequalities in health and wellbeing, and risks for physical and mental health, in different contexts,.

As well as contributing to theoretical development of health geography, her work has strong applied and international aspects. Her research has informed and contributed to health policy development and evaluation of health services in the UK, France, Russia, Poland, Canada and the USA.

Sarah Curtis was appointed in September 2006 as Professor of Health and Risk in the Geography department at the University of Durham. From 2012 to 2015 she was Executive Director of the Institute of Hazard Risk and Resilience, where she led strategic development of interdisciplinary research at the University, focused on diverse aspects of hazards and risks in the physical and social environment and how to build resilience to these hazards.

She also works closely with colleagues in other disciplines through the Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing.

In 2014 Sarah Curtis was elected as Fellow of the British Academy, an independent national academy of Fellows elected for their eminence in research and publication. She is also Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences.

Sarah Curtis holds a BA Hons in Geography from Oxford University and DPhil in Urban and Regional Studies from the University of Kent. Before joining Durham University she worked as Professor in Geography at Queen Mary, University of London.

Recent Research Includes:

  • Sarah is a member of the research team work on Community Wellbeing as part of the ESRC funded What Works for Wellbeing Programme.
  • Sarah was Principal Investigator for the Leverhulme Trust Programme on Tipping Points based in the Institute of Hazard Risk and Resilience and employing 9 PDRAs in various Departments across the University, which completed in 2015.
  • She was Principal Investigator for the project ‘BIOPICCC - Built Infrastructure for Older People in Conditions of Climate Change.’ 2009 -2012 funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council under their ARCC Programme. This has published a toolkit for development of adaptation to climate change which has been widely cited as a valuable planning resource.
  • Research on physical activity and wellbeing in schools (the ‘MOVE’ project) (funded by ESRC), for which Sarah is Co-I directing research by Dr Katie Thomson, PDRA in geography.
  • health impact assessment of urban regeneration schemes, (for the Department of Health, and other agencies).
  • development of healthy public policy (with agencies in Canada and UK).
  • research on how the social and physical environment relates to well-being, resilience and health of adults and children (funded by ESRC and the Nuffield Foundation).
  • research on therapeutic design of psychiatric health care settings (funded by British Academy).
  • international collaborative work on migration, health and wellbeing (supported by ESRC).
  • comparative research on geographical variation in psychiatric service use supported by the Office of Mental Health for New York State, USA. This work has been widely disseminated through her research publications.

Sarah has collaborated through research and consultancy with a number of organisations including local and national agencies in the English National Health Service; the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, England, the Environment Agency, the Cabinet Office Resilient Communities Unit, the Health Protection Agency; The Greater London Authority, the World Health Organisation; the Insitut National de la Santé et Recherche Medicale, France. She has served as: non-executive director of a NHS Community and Mental Health Care Trust; on the Advisory Board for the London Health Observatory; and as board member and advisor for the National Collaborating Centre for Healthy Public Policy, National Institute of Public Health, Quebec, Canada.

Sarah Curtis was the Senior Editor, Medical Geography, for the leading international journal Social Science and Medicine (from 2003 - 2012), and she undertakes work for national Research Council committees and evaluation panels in the UK and abroad and is a noninated member of the National Scientific Council of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France. She is a Member of the Society of Social Medicine, a Fellow, and Chartered Geographer (Founder Member), of the Royal Geographical Society/Institute of British Geographers. She is also an Academician of the Academy of Social Sciences and a Registered Practitioner of the Academy for Higher Education.

Sarah Curtis is author of Space, Place and Mental Health (2010) Ashgate.

Research Groups

Research Projects

Selected Publications

Journal Article

Authored book

Chapter in book

  • Curtis, S. & Hoyez, A.C. Public Health and Migration. In: Ness, I., Bellwood, P., Gabaccia, D., Maty Bâ, S., Safitri, S. & Julca, A. The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration. Wiley Blackwell; 2012.
  • Riva, M. & Curtis, S. Policy Responses and the Physical Environment. In: Pearce, J. & Witten, K. Geographies of Obesity: Environmental Understandings of the Obesity Epidemic. Farnham, Ashgate; 2011.
  • Riva, M. & Curtis, S. The Rural, Material and Social Context of Positive Health in England. In: Atkinson, S., Painter, J. & Fuller, S. Wellbeing and Place. Farnham, Ashgate; 2011.
  • Curtis, S., Riva, M. & Rosenberg, M. Health Geography in Public Health. In: Brown, T., McLafferty, S. & Moon, G. Companion to Health and Medical Geography. Oxford Blackwell; 2010:325-345.
  • Gesler, W. & Curtis, S. Application of Concepts of Therapeutic Landscapes to the Design of Hospitals in the UK: The example of a Mental Health Facility in London. In: Williams, A. Therapeutic Landscapes. Ashgate; 2007:149-164.
  • Curtis, S. & Cummins, S.C.J. Ecological studies. In: Galeo, S. Macro Social Determinants of Health. USA: Springer; 2007:327-348.
  • Curtis, S. Geographie sociale et geographie de la sante. In: Fleuret, S. & Thouez, J-P. Geographie de la Sante: un Panorama. Paris.: Economica; 2007:26-36.
  • Curtis, S. & Bebbington, A. Geographical variations in health and welfare and their significance for equity and efficiency in resource allocation. In: Knapp, M., Challis, D., Fernández, J.-L. & Netten, A. Long-Term Care: Matching Resources and Needs. Aldershot: Ashgate; 2004:199-218.
  • De Campos, R., Congdon, P., Curtis, S., Gregory, I. N., Rees Jones, I. & Southall, H. Locality-level mortality and socio-economic change in Britain since 1920: first steps towards analysis of infant mortality variation. In: Boyle, P. J., Curtis, S., Graham, E. & Moore, E. The Geography of Health Inequalities in the Developed World: Views from Britain and North America. London: Ashgate; 2004.
  • Fagg, J., Curtis, S., Stansfeld, S. & Congdon, P. Neighbourhood influences on adolescent health in East London. In: Sagan, I. & Czepczyński, M. Featuring the Quality of Urban Life in Contemporary Cities of Eastern and Western Europe. Gdańsk-Poznań Bogucki Wydawnictwo Naukowe = Bogucki Scientific Press; 2004:117-124.
  • Curtis, S. Social exclusion, health and health care; the case of the National Health Service in England. In: Lee, R. & Smith, D. Geographies and Moralities: International Perspectives on Development, Justice and Place. Oxford: Blackwell; 2004:79-82.

Edited book


  • Shucksmith, J., Carlebach, S., Riva, M., Curtis, S., Hunter, D, J., Blackman, T. & Hudson, R. Health Inequalities in Ex-Coalfield/Industrial Communities. A report to the Improvement and Development Agency for Local Government and the Department of Health. 2010.

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Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Health & welfare services: Health inequality
  • Health & welfare services: Geography of Health