Dr Lucy Platt
in Public Health Epidemiology
I joined the School in 2006 as part of the Centre for Research on Drugs and Health Behaviour. My doctoral thesis examined how epidemiological research methods can be used for surveillance of HIV in the context of a concentrated HIV epidemic among people who inject drugs. For this work, I drew on data from a multi-method study (using qualitative and quantitative approaches) to measure prevalence of HIV/HCV and syphilis prevalence and associated risk factors among people who inject drugs (PWID) and sex workers in the Russian Federation. The importance of the study stems from the need to assess the epidemiology of HIV in a hidden population in the context of one of the fastest changing HIV epidemics in the world, and because of its focus in exploring the feasibility of behavioural surveillance through community-recruited samples of a hidden population. A key finding from my doctoral thesis was to expose how structured questions can lead to underreporting of sensitive behaviours and misinterpretation of the complex social processes that drive them.
I co-chair the Faculty of Public Health and Policy's Athena SWAN committee.
I currently co-organise and lecture on the Drugs, Alcohol and Tobacco module. I am a seminar leader on the Principles of Social Research module.
My research focuses on examining how social and health policies and interventions influence people who sell sex and/or inject drugs’ vulnerability to blood-borne viruses, sexually transmitted infections (STI) and other health harms. Much of this work has focused on the UK, Russian Federation, Eastern Europe and East Africa.
My research has used different quantitative techniques, such as capture recapture to estimate the size of hidden populations, systematic reviews to synthesise evidence on HIV/HCV co-infection, the effect of migration on STIs/HIV among SWs and the impact of brief interventions on alcohol; and cross-sectional studies to measure prevalence of HIV/HCV and STIs and associated risk factors among people who inject drugs (PWID) and sex workers. Although primarily an epidemiologist, much of my research is mixed-methods, incorporating qualitative methods to ‘ground’ structured indicators and understand the complex social processes that drive individuals’ behaviour as well as collaborating closely with mathematic modellers to simulate intervention impact on disease transmission.
My methodological interests lie in how best to combine qualitative and quantitative methods to measure the causal pathways through which structural factors (i.e. social policies) increase risk behaviours and vulnerability to infectious disease and other health harms among vulnerable and marginalised populations.
My research has focussed on measuring the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of needle/syringe programmes and opiate substitution therapy on hepatitis C incidence among people who inject drugs. I am curently providing technical support on a cluster randomised controlled trial that seeks to measure the effect of a multi-level intervention to reduce intimate partner violence towards sex workers in Karnataka, India.
In the UK, I am currently leading a participative mixed-method study to evaluate how removing sex work-related police enforcement could affect sex workers’ safety, sexual and emotional health (e.g. risk of HIV, STIs, depression and anxiety) and access to health and social care services, in East London (Hackney, Newham and Tower Hamlets). This study 'The East London Project' is a community-academic partnership fundined by the NIHR conducted in collaboration with sex worker specialist serices 'Open Doors' and 'National Ugly Mugs' as well as the Homerton Hospital, University of Bristol and Imperial College. As part of this study, we are working on an evidence synthesis reviewing international epidemiological and social science literature to assess the magnitude and pathways through which criminalisation affects sex workers' safety and health.