Prof Cicely Marston

Professor of Public Health

United Kingdom

I have over 25 years of experience of interdisciplinary research in health, working across sectors to understand complex problems, and developing innovative research methods to inform interventions and improve evaluations. I take a collaborative leadership approach, and my research is underpinned and driven by a commitment to health equity.

I founded and lead the DEPTH research group which brings together scholarship centered on community participation in health. Our multi-million pound programme of work is now concluding, with final outputs due in 2024.

I studied Human Sciences BSc at Oxford University, and Medical Demography MSc at LSHTM. I stayed at LSHTM to do an interdisciplinary PhD and then postdoc involving research on young people's sexual practice, participatory health promotion, and sexuality education. For my PhD fieldwork I lived in Iztapalapa, Mexico City, working with and interviewing members of marginalised communities and studying Mexfam's internationally-renowned sexuality education programme Gente Joven. I moved to Imperial College to continue my research and to direct a public health MSc, returning to LSHTM in 2005. I have since led and supervised research in other countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia, and Africa as well as the UK.


Department of Public Health, Environments and Society
Faculty of Public Health and Policy


Centre for Evaluation
Centre for Maternal Adolescent Reproductive & Child Health


I teach on the following modules: Sociological Approaches to Health, Family Planning, Sexual Health, and Qualitative Methodologies. I supervise PhD and DrPH students. I have also taught on Methodology, Epidemiology, Demography, Ethics, and computing courses and modules.


My collaborative, interdisciplinary research generates insights into health, health promotion, and health equity, and includes evaluations of complex interventions. Key areas are sexual and reproductive health, transitions to adulthood, and intersectoral approaches to health and healthcare improvement for marginalised populations. I work with various external organisations, including the World Health Organization to develop and guide international policy and practice. I take a collaborative leadership approach to my work, and am increasingly interested in how diverse groups can work together to tackle the world's most complex problems both within and outside health.

Under my directorship, the DEPTH research group developed the 'DEPTH approach' to co-producing high quality research with diverse groups of people, including policymakers, clinicians, community members, patients and other stakeholders. The approach includes an easy-to-communicate framework which ensures research is embedded into co-production processes, rather than adding co-production onto research business-as-usual. We take an inclusive, equity-orientated approach including developing guidance to ensure co-production occurs within a supportive ecosystem, such as our inclusive authorship guidelines which have been widely used by teams internationally, including in sectors outside health.

Selected past projects include:

Routes: new ways to talk about Covid-19 for better health. This was a rapid, responsive, co-produced research project with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities and migrant workers in precarious jobs, looking at experiences during and responses to the pandemic. The project used the DEPTH approach to co-produce rapid policy insights for urgent response by the UK Dept Health and Social Care/Test and Trace, as well as transferable, in-depth academic insights published in international journals.

I led research for the £21 million ACCESS (Approaches to Complex and Challenging Environments for Sustainable Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights), designed to improve sexual and reproductive health and rights for marginalised populations in complex and challenging environments, including humanitarian settings. Implementation was curtailed by the UK aid cuts. In the lifetime of the programme we continued to evolve and generate the supportive ecosystem surrounding the DEPTH approach, e.g. inclusive authorship guidelines.

This sickle cell life: voices and experiences of young people with sickle cell. Here, co-production meant we could generate and share actionable insights over the course of the project, as well as high-quality international journal articles at the end. The approach meant key stakeholders felt ownership of the findings, and they worked to disseminate and act on findings, amplifying the impact of the research in unexpected ways.

The sixteen 18 project, funded by ESRC, examined young people's sexual practices and meanings attached to those practices. The findings attracted, and still attract, international media coverage and have particularly influenced understandings of sexual coercion.

In a 10-year LSHTM partnership with NIHR CLAHRC for Northwest London, I was principal investigator on research with Dr Alicia Renedo looking in depth at participation and engagement of patients and members of the the public in healthcare quality improvement. During this time I was also technical lead advising on WHO recommendations on community participation in maternal and newborn health promotion, and on the community engagement action area of the Global Strategy on Women's, Children's and Adolescents' Health.

Most of my papers are available open access, many via LSHTM research online. If you can't find the paper you need, please email me.
Research Area
Inclusive community development
Health education and promotion
Sexual health
Reproductive health
Complex interventions
Research methodology
United Kingdom

Selected Publications

Understanding the lived experience of pregnancy and birth for survivors of rape and sexual assault.
Lissmann, R; LOKOT, M; MARSTON, C;
BMC pregnancy and childbirth
Community-led responses to COVID-19 within Gypsy and Traveller communities in England: A participatory qualitative research study.
RENEDO, A; Stuart, R; Kühlbrandt, C; GRENFELL, P; MCGOWAN, CR; Miles, S; Farrow, S; MARSTON, C;
SSM - Qualitative Research in Health
Community participation is crucial in a pandemic.
Neglect of STIs and infertility undermines family planning programmes.
BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health
Preventing Intimate Partner Violence Among Young People—a Qualitative Study Examining the Role of Comprehensive Sexuality Education
MAKLEFF, S; Garduño, J; Zavala, RI; Barindelli, F; Valades, J; Billowitz, M; Silva Márquez, VI; MARSTON, C;
Sexuality Research and Social Policy
‘Slow co-production’ for deeper patient involvement in health care
The Journal of Health Design
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