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Professor Tessa M. Pollard



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Professor in the Department of Anthropology  
Fellow of the Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing  


Tessa uses approaches from medical anthropology, public health and epidemiology to investigate everyday physical activity practices and their relationships with health and wellbeing . She is particularly interested in using ethnographic methods to explore and improve the impact of interventions to promote walking for leisure and travel. She leads the Department of Anthropology’s Physical Activity Lab, a group of postdoctoral researchers and PhD students using a range of methods, including accelerometry, in a diverse set of anthropological projects around everyday physical activity.

Tessa currently leads ethnographic studies evaluating the impact of social prescribing for people with type 2 diabetes, policies to promote active school travel in Healthy New Towns, and policies to promote healthy eating practices for children in London using go-along methods. Each of these studies is part of large multi and inter-disciplinary projects that aim ultimately to improve the delivery of effective interventions to reduce inequalities in health. Two are funded by the National Institute for Health Research and one by the School for Public Health Research.

Tessa currently supervises PhD students researching the rise of organisations that promote physical activity alongside volunteering, disentangling the effects of sex and gender on physical activity, and examining the role of community gardening in social prescribing.

Research interests

  • Walking and walking groups
  • Using ethnography to inform interventions
  • Understanding the place of physical activities in everyday lives
  • Evolutionary perspectives on physical activity
  • The health of migrant populations

Research groups


Authored book

  • Pollard, T.M. (2008). Western Diseases: An Evolutionary Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Chapter in book

  • Pollard, T.M. & Ice, G.H. (2007). Measuring hormonal variation in the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis: cortisol. In Measuring stress in humans: a practical guide for the field. Ice, G.H. & James, G.D. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 122-158.

Edited book

  • Pollard, T.M. & Hyatt, S.B. (1999). Sex, gender and health. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Edited Journal

  • Pollard, T.M., Rousham, E.K. & Colls, R. (2011). Intergenerational and familial approaches to obesity and related conditions. Annals of Human Biology, 38 (4): Informa Healthcare.

Journal Article

Supervision students