Funded (UK/EU and international students)

Project code



School of Health and Care Professions

Start dates

October 2023

Application deadline

6 April 2023

Applications are invited for a fully-funded three-year PhD to commence in October 2023. 

The PhD will be based in the Faculty of Science and Health, and will be supervised by Dr Suzannah Helps, Dr Nuno Tavares and Dr Mancz. 

Candidates applying for this project may be eligible to compete for one of a small number of bursaries available. Successful applicants will receive a bursary to cover tuition fees at the UK/EU rate for three years and a stipend in line with the UKRI rate (£17,668 for 2022/23). Bursary recipients will also receive a contribution of £1,500 pa towards consumables, conference, project or training costs. 

The work on this project could involve:

  • Content analysis of existing social media videos relating to health promotion targeted towards young mothers
  • Generation of health promotion materials
  • Analysis of engagement with these health promotion materials, for example by using Google Analytics or qualitative interviews

Infant nutrition is fundamental to a child’s health (e.g. Scharfe, 2018). Nutrition in the first two years of life is particularly important as this is a period of rapid growth and brain development. Correct feeding during this period lowers morbidity and mortality (ASPHN, 2013). 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) makes recommendations about infant feeding (World Health Organisation, 2001) and these recommendations have been adopted by the Department of Health in the UK (Department of Health, 2003). Compliance with the WHO guidelines around infant feeding is improving but remains low in the UK. Younger mothers are consistently shown to be less likely to adhere to guidance about infant feeding than older mothers (e.g. Infant Feeding Survey 2005: Infant Feeding Survey 2010, Scottish Maternal and Infant Nutrition Survey, 2017: Helps et al, submitted).

In our previous research, we showed that the internet is the most commonly used source of information to make decisions about infant feeding (Helps et al, submitted).  Young people are more likely to use the internet to seek information about health than older people, but the information on the internet can be inaccurate and of low quality (e.g. Batar 2020) Reviews of internet videos typically show that videos shared by health professionals and government organisation are generally of high reliability, accuracy, and quality (e.g Inan-Eroglu E, Buyuktuncer Z. 2022). Given the high demand for health information on the internet, health professionals, academics and government organisations need to engage more with Internet platforms to provide clear evidence-based information to patients. This is likely to be particularly effective for sharing health information with younger people.

The PhD project would develop our understanding of how the internet and particularly social media can be used as a method of health promotion, specifically focussing on promoting guidelines around infant nutrition to young mothers.

Entry requirements

You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

How to apply

We’d encourage you to contact Dr Suzannah Helps ( to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV.  Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.

If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code SHCP7900423 when applying.