Usher Institute

Shaping public health polices to reduce inequalities and harm (SPECTRUM)

We are a multi-university, multi-agency research consortium focused on the commercial determinants of health and health inequalities funded by the UK Prevention Research Partnership.


SPECTRUM will generate new evidence to inform the prevention of non-communicable diseases caused by unhealthy commodities - focusing initially on tobacco and alcohol but extending work to unhealthy food and drinks. Our research aims to transform policy and practice to encourage and enable healthy environments and behaviours. Lay summary (Research in a nutshell)

The main causes of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) include consumption of unhealthy commodities such as tobacco, alcohol or foods high in fat, salt and/or sugar. These exposures are preventable, but the commodities involved are highly profitable. Their consumption and health and social impacts are also inequitable and driven by complex systems of production, distribution and promotion dominated by transnational companies - Unhealthy Commodity Producers (UCPs). UCPs’ economic interests often conflict with health goals and their role in determining health has received insufficient attention.

SPECTRUM will generate new evidence to inform the prevention of NCDs caused by unhealthy commodities and to transform policy and practice to encourage the adoption of healthy environments and behaviours.

With a principal focus on tobacco and alcohol, our work extends to food in key studies. Approaches we develop in future could be applied to other commodities. We are conducting research in eight integrated work packages.

Along with an inter-disciplinary research team, SPECTRUM’s work is co-created with research users from civil society organisations, companies and the main public health agencies in Great Britain. The public will be involved through engagement panels, citizen’s juries and qualitative research. This partnership will ensure that research findings will benefit from an accelerated pathway to inform new policies and practices and will provide valuable data to assess the extent and effectiveness of approaches to addressing NCDs in the UK and beyond.

Key people

Name Role
Linda Bauld Director
Lauren White Research Fellow
Jeff Collin Work Package Leader
Jamie Pearce Work Package Leader
Niamh Shortt Researcher
Sancha Martin Consortium Manager



SPECTRUM project website

Key publications

Shortt NK, Tunstall H, Mitchell R, et al

Using point-of-sale data to examine tobacco pricing across neighbourhoods in Scotland

Tobacco Control.  Published Online First: 19 March 2020.

doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2019-055484

Funder: National Health Service Health Scotland


Maani N, Collin J, Friel S, Gilmore AB, McCambridge J, Robertson L, Petticrew MP

Bringing the commercial determinants of health out of the shadows: a review of how the commercial determinants are represented in conceptual frameworks.

European Journal of Public Health. Published online ahead of print, 2020 Jan 18


Funder: The UK Prevention Research Partnership (SPECTRUM; MR/S037519/1)


Beard, E., West, R., Michie, S., and Brown, J. 

Association of prevalence of electronic cigarette use with smoking cessation and cigarette consumption in England: a time–series analysis between 2006 and 2017. Addiction, First published: 16 October 2019

doi: 10.2222/add.14851

Funder: The Smoking Toolkit Study is primarily funded by Cancer Research UK - for full funding details please see acknowledgements.

Partners and Funders

Funder: UK Prevention Research Partnership

Partners: Universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Nottingham, Sheffield, Stirling, King's College London, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University College London and the Australian National University in addition to Public Health England, NHS Health Scotland and Public Health Wales. 

Other partners include The Retail Data Partnership, Sandtable and the Alcohol Health Alliance, Smokefree Action Coalition, Obesity Health Alliance, NCD Alliance and the Poverty Alliance.


Start date: October 2019

End date:  September 2024

Scientific themes (keywords)

Non communicable disease; public health; commercial determinants of health

Methodology keywords

Systems science