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Professor Sarah Elizabeth Curtis

Emeritus Professor

BA (Hons) (Oxon), DPhil, FBA,FAcSS,FRGS

AffiliationRoom numberTelephone
Emeritus Professor in the Department of Geography
Associate Member in the Centre for Humanities Engaging Science and Society (CHESS)  
Principal Investigator in the Tipping Points Research Project234+44 (0) 191 33 41830
Fellow of the Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing +44 (0) 191 33 41830


Professor Sarah Curtis is Professor Emerita at Durham University. She 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. 

Sarah has been fully retired since 2016 and continues to carry out collaborative research with colleagues at Durham University Geography Department (in her role as Professor Emerita) and with the Centre for Research in Environment Society and Health at the University of Edinburgh, where she is Honorary Professor. 

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 a Fellow and and Chartered Geographer (Founder Member) of the Royal Geographical Society, Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences and Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

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 has been advising a collaborative project, funded by ESRC 2018-2019, involving Universities of Edinburgh, Durham and Newcastle, working on 'Recession and Mental Health in Scotland: Do Personal or Community Factors promote Resilience to Labour Market Change?'. Professor Jamie Pearce at University of Edinburgh is the Principal Investigator.
  • in 2017-18 Sarah was a member of the research team at Durham University which worked 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. She has undertaken review and advisory roles for various national research councils in the UK and internationally.

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 was nominated member of the National Scientific Council of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France from 2010-2018. She is a Member of the Society of Social Medicine and a Registered Practitioner of the Academy for Higher Education.

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

Research Projects

  • Built Infrastructure for Older People’s Care in Conditions of Climate Change (BIOPICCC)
  • Built Infrastructure for Older People’s Care in Conditions of Climate Change (BIOPICCC)
  • Extreme events and vulnerable people: Harnessing science to practice
  • Geographical Variation in the Provision and Use of Health Services
  • Migration, Health and Wellbeing: Comparative Perspectives from Britain and France
  • Pathways of Housing Wealth and Well-being: precipitants and consequences of mortgage equity withdrawal in BHPS and HILDA
  • Sources of Resilience to Adverse Social Environments
  • Winners and losers in contrasting labour markets? Socio-economic and spatial inequalities in the population health effects of economic recession and economic growth, BUPA Foundation, £130,000 (2010-2014)

Awarded Grants

  • 2015: Bringing wellbeing to community(£87250.40 from ESRC)
  • 2013: Christopher Moyes MF PHD Nahid R(£53433.00 from Christopher Moyes Memorial Foundation)
  • 2013: Christopher Moyes Memorial Foundation(£53433.00 from Christopher Moyes Memorial Foundation)
  • 2012: Christopher Moyes MF IGRR Doctoral Fellowships(£173839.96 from Christopher Moyes Memorial Foundation)
  • 2012: Christopher Moyes Memorial Foundation - Gift(£163800.00 from Christopher Moyes Memorial Foundation)
  • 2012: Christopher Moyes Memorial Foundation - Gift(£163800.00 from Christopher Moyes Memorial Foundation)
  • 2012: Differential acculturation and its impact on well being among Bangladeshi migrants living at different densities in the UK(£20233.46 from ESRC)
  • 2012: Dissemination and evaluation of the prototype BIOPICCC toolkit(£25023.96 from Epsrc)
  • 2012: Physical Activity and Wellbeing in Schools(£144339.15 from ESRC)
  • 2012: Quality and Effectiveness of Supported Tenancies for people with mental health problems (QEST)(£5574.00 from NIHR)
  • 2010: Evaluating the implementation of a new psychiatric inpatient facility(£168131.00 from NIHR)
  • 2010: Tipping Points: mathematics, metaphors and meaning(£472569.00 from The Leverhulme Trust)
  • 2009: BIOPICCC(£256926.10 from Epsrc)
  • 2008: REVIEW OF RESEARCH EVIDENCE(£9820.14 from Health Protection Agency NE)
  • 2007: MAPPING LINKS BETWEEN YOUNG PEOPLE(£60525.39 from The Nuffield Foundation)
  • 2007: MIGRATION, HEALTH AND WELLBEING(£15898.26 from ESRC)

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

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


Authored book

Chapter in book

  • Curtis, S. & Hoyez, A.C. (2012). Public Health and Migration. In The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration. Ness, I., Bellwood, P., Gabaccia, D., Maty Bâ, S., Safitri, S. & Julca, A. Wiley Blackwell.
  • Riva, M. & Curtis, S. (2011). Policy Responses and the Physical Environment. In Geographies of Obesity: Environmental Understandings of the Obesity Epidemic. Pearce, J. & Witten, K. Farnham, Ashgate.
  • Riva, M. & Curtis, S. (2011). The Rural, Material and Social Context of Positive Health in England. In Wellbeing and Place. Atkinson, S., Painter, J. & Fuller, S. Farnham, Ashgate.
  • Curtis, S., Riva, M. & Rosenberg, M. (2010). Health Geography in Public Health. In Companion to Health and Medical Geography. Brown, T., McLafferty, S. & Moon, G. Oxford Blackwell. 325-345.
  • Curtis, S. & Cummins, S.C.J. (2007). Ecological studies. In Macro Social Determinants of Health. Galeo, S. USA: Springer. 327-348.
  • Gesler, W. & Curtis, S. (2007). Application of Concepts of Therapeutic Landscapes to the Design of Hospitals in the UK: The example of a Mental Health Facility in London. In Therapeutic Landscapes. Williams, A. Ashgate. 149-164.
  • Curtis, S. (2007). Geographie sociale et geographie de la sante. In Geographie de la Sante: un Panorama. Fleuret, S. & Thouez, J-P. Paris.: Economica. 26-36.
  • Fagg, J., Curtis, S., Stansfeld, S. & Congdon, P. (2004). Neighbourhood influences on adolescent health in East London. In Featuring the Quality of Urban Life in Contemporary Cities of Eastern and Western Europe. Sagan, I. & Czepczyński, M. Gdańsk-Poznań Bogucki Wydawnictwo Naukowe = Bogucki Scientific Press. 117-124.
  • Curtis, S. (2004). Social exclusion, health and health care; the case of the National Health Service in England. In Geographies and Moralities: International Perspectives on Development, Justice and Place. Lee, R. & Smith, D. Oxford: Blackwell. 79-82.
  • De Campos, R., Congdon, P., Curtis, S., Gregory, I. N., Rees Jones, I. & Southall, H. (2004). Locality-level mortality and socio-economic change in Britain since 1920: first steps towards analysis of infant mortality variation. In The Geography of Health Inequalities in the Developed World: Views from Britain and North America. Boyle, P. J., Curtis, S., Graham, E. & Moore, E. London: Ashgate.
  • Curtis, S. & Bebbington, A. (2004). Geographical variations in health and welfare and their significance for equity and efficiency in resource allocation. In Long-Term Care: Matching Resources and Needs. Knapp, M., Challis, D., Fernández, J.-L. & Netten, A. Aldershot: Ashgate. 199-218.
  • Moon, G. & Curtis, S. (1998). Health and Health Policy in Europe. In A European Geography. Unwin, T. London: Prentice Hall. 291-295.
  • Jones, I. & Curtis, S. (1997). Health. In Britain's Cities: Geographies of Division in Urban Britain. Pacione, M. London: Routledge. 218-243.
  • Curtis, S. (1995). Geographical perspectives on poverty, health and health poverty in different parts of the UK. In Off the Map: the Social Geography of Poverty in the UK. Philo, C. London: Child Poverty Action Group. 153-174.
  • Curtis, S. (1993). Contributions. In Dictionary of Human Geography. Johnston, R., Gregory, D. & Smith, D. Oxford: Blackwells. 241-243; 374-376; 489-490.
  • Curtis, S. (1992). Social welfare as a dimension of regional development. In Regional Development in the 1990s: The British Isles in Transition. Townroe, P. & Martin, R. London: Regional Science Association. 251-256.
  • Curtis, S. (1991). Residential location as a gateway to care. In Housing for Health. Smith, S., Knill-Jones, R. & McGuckin, A. London: Longman. 19-42.
  • Curtis, S. (1989). Community welfare services in the inner city: the case of Inner London. In Social Problems in the City. Smith, D. & Herbert, D. Oxford: OUP. 176-197.
  • Aïach, P. & Curtis, S. E. (1989). Croissance comparée de la morbidité déclarée en France et en Grande Bretagne. In Géographie et Socio-Economie de la Santé. Paris: Centre de Recherche d'Etude et de Documentation en Economie de la Santé (CREDES). 169-180.
  • Curtis, S. & Hyndman, S. (1989). The need for change in information, organisation and resources: a study of housing dampness and respiratory illness. In Readings for a New Public Health. Martin, C. & McQueen, D. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. 203-213.
  • Mohan, J. & Curtis, S. (1989). The geography of ill-health and health care. In The North-South Divide: Regional Change in Britain in the 1980s. Lewis, J. & Townsend, A. London: Paul Chapman. 175-191.
  • Bucquet, D. & Curtis, S. E. (1989). Decentralisation and sectorialisation of Medico-Social services for the elderly in France. In Géographie et Socio-Economie de la Santé. Paris: Centre de Recherche d'Etude et de Documentation en Economie de la Santé (CREDES). 3-12.

Conference Paper

  • Curtis, S. E. (2006), Evaluer l'impact sur la Santé des Politiques Hors du Secteur Médicale, Journées Annuelles de Santé Publique. Montréal, Quebec, Montreal, Quebec.
  • Curtis, S. E. (2006), How can we address health inequality through healthy public policy in Europe?, Sixth European Urban & Regional Studies Conference. Roskilde, Denmark, Roskilde.
  • Curtis, S.E. (2006), Development and persistance of human capability and resilience in their social and geographical context, Festival of Science. Institute for Research on Health and Society, University College, London, England, Institute for Research on Health and Society, University College, London.
  • Curtis, S. E. (2006), Les facteurs individuels et sociaux associés à la santé mentale des jeunes adultes en Angleterre, Assemblée des Chercheurs Centre de recherche Léa-Roback sur les inégalités sociales de santé de Montréal, 9-10 November. Hôtel Mont Gabrile, Ste-Adèle, Laurentides, Hôtel Mont Gabrile, Ste-Adèle, Laurentides.
  • Curtis, S. E. (2005), La consommation des services en psychiatrie à New York City et à Londres: L'intérêt et des limites d'un perspective géographique, GEOIDE Congress. University of Sherbrook, Quebec, Canada, University of Sherbrook, Quebec.
  • Curtis, S. E. (2005), People, places and health, Dahlgren and Whitehead and beyond: the social determinants of health in research, policy and service delivery. Institute of Society, Health and Ethics, University of Cardiff, UK, Institute of Society, University of Cardiff.
  • Curtis, S. E. (2004), Les hospitalisations en psychiatrie à New York et à Londres, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales. Paris, France., Paris.
  • Curtis, S. E. (2004), Les inégalités de santé une perspective géographique, Centre for Research on Contemporary Issues in Public Health (CRESP). University of Paris 13, Bobigny, France, University of Paris 13, Bobigny.
  • Curtis, S. E. (2004), L'intérêt et les limites des analyses multi-niveaux pour mesurer les effets des lieux sur les inégalités de santé, Institut de recherche et documentation en économie de la santé. Paris, France, Paris.
  • Curtis, S. E. (2004), Varying use of mental health care among the populations of local areas in New York State, 1999-2001, Office of Mental Health for New York State. Albany, USA, Albany.
  • Curtis, S. E. (2004), Area and place effects on mental health and health care, Annual General Meeting of Psychiatry Section, Royal Society of Medicine. London, England, London.
  • Curtis, S. E. (2004), The British NHS on the global scene: the importance of globalisation and new technologies for the NHS in Britain, London Society of Academic Primary Care Annual Meeting. Madingly Hall, Cambridge, England, Madingly Hall, Cambridge.
  • Curtis, S. E., Lucas-Gabrielli, V. & Tonnellier, F. (1998), Peut-on traduire RAWP en français? = Can RAWP be translated from English to French?, 5ème colloque geographie et socio-économie de la santé allocation des ressources, géographie des soins. Biblio no. 1242. CREDES, Paris, France, CREDES, Paris.

Edited book

  • Bennett, P., Curtis, S., Calman, K. & Smith, D. (Accepted). Risk Communication and Public Health. Oxford.: Oxford University Press.
  • Bennett, P., Calman, K., Curtis, S. & Fishbacher-Smith, D. (2009). Risk Communication and Public Health. Oxford University Press.
  • Boyle, P. J., Curtis, S., Graham, E. & Moore, E. (2004). The Geography of Health Inequalities in the Developed World: Views from Britain and North America. London: Ashgate.

Journal Article


  • Curtis, Sarah, Congdon, Peter, Atkinson, Sarah, Corcoran, Rhiannon, MaGuire, Rosie & Peasgood, Tessa (2019). Individual and local area factors associated with self-reported wellbeing, perceived social cohesion and sense of attachment to one’s community: analysis of the Understanding Society Survey. What Works Centre for Wellbeing.
  • Shucksmith, J., Carlebach, S., Riva, M., Curtis, S., Hunter, D. J., Blackman, T. & Hudson, R. (2010). Health Inequalities in Ex-Coalfield/Industrial Communities. A report to the Improvement and Development Agency for Local Government and the Department of Health.
  • Mindell, J., Boaz, A., Joffe, M., Curtis, S. E., Taylor, L., Birley, M. & et al (2005). A guide to reviewing published evidence for use in health impact assessment. London Health Observatory.
  • Curtis, S. & Cave, B. (2002). Regeneration and neighbourhood change. Health Development Agency, Queen Mary.
  • Curtis, S. E. & Ross, P. (2001). Changing healthcare provision for children in East London. East London and City Health Authority..
  • Stansfeld S., Curtis, S. E., Haines, M. & et al. (2001). Rapid review on noise and health for London. A review to support the development of the Mayor of London's Ambient Noise Strategy. Departments of Psychiatry and Geography, Queen Mary.
  • Cave, B. & Curtis, S. E. (2001). Health impact assessment for regeneration projects. London, East London and the Health City Action Zone and Queen Mary.
  • (2001). Health impact assessment for groundwork SRTS projects.
  • Curtis, S. E., Grant, L. & Daker-White, G. (1991). Prefeasibility study for the gate project: a literature review. Department of Geography.
  • Curtis, S. E. & Allen, E. (1991). Unified Commissioning Project. Barking and Havering Family Health Service Authority and Barking, Havering and Brentwood DHA..
  • Curtis, S. E. (1987). Indicators of the consequences of chronic diseases and their use for planning purposes in England and Wales. EEC COMAC/HSR research project MR3 INSERM, Unite 164, Le Vésinet, Paris..
  • Curtis, S. E. (1986). Area and individual aspects of deprivation and morbidity. End of Award Report to the Economic and Social Research Council, QMC Health Research Group..