Natalie Savona

BA (Hons) MA MPhil PhD

Assistant Professor

15-17 Tavistock Place
United Kingdom

Natalie's work is grounded in an interest in health inequalities, the commercial determinants of health, diet and complex systems thinking, spanning a range of disciplines including public health, anthropology and nutrition. 

Natalie is interested in using complex systems thinking and system mapping as a participatory approach to understanding the drivers of health and how to improve them. 

Her PhD, "Exploring responsibility for healthy eating", was a qualitative analysis of aspects of the food system to investigate determinants of diet by examining perceptions of responsibility for healthy eating, using a 'complex systems' approach. 

Before returning to academic work, Natalie did consultant work on diet, as well as writing books and presenting on television, including the series 'Food Rebels' for the Community Channel. She was the winner of the 2016 LSHTM 3 Minute Thesis competition. 

Her academic background is in anthropology (BA Hons Cambridge, MA Sussex) and public health (MPhil, Cambridge). She began her PhD - funded by a college scholarship -  at Queen Mary, before transferring with Professor Steven Cummins to LSHTM to complete her thesis.


Department of Health Services Research and Policy
Faculty of Public Health and Policy


Natalie is a supervisor on the MSc in Public Health and deputy module organiser on the module: Health Policy, Process & Power. 


Natalie is an assistant professor on Co-Create (Confronting Obesity: Co-creating policy with youth), a five-year, EU-funded project working across five European countries. She leads a workstream responsible for conducting complex systems mapping with young people, policy-makers and academics on the drivers of adolescents' diets and physical activity. The maps are being used across other Co-Create workstreams to develop policy ideas with adolescents, and to help inform a systems dynamics model. 

Natalie is a co-investigator on the NIHR-funded project 'The Kids Will Eat Better', using a systems approach to examine how local authorities can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of interventions to address inequality in childhood obesity.

Natalie also has a Wellcome-ISSF award to run a pilot study on the public's perceptions of the role of businesses in health, working with public health practitioners in Islington.

For two years, Natalie worked on a project funded by The Health Foundation: "Building a new system for the generation and use of public health evidence". The role involved promoting complex systems thinking as a useful approach in public health research and policy.

For her PhD thesis, Natalie examined the food system from a 'complex systems' perspective. Her research used qualitative methods - analysing state and corporate policy documents, focus groups and interviews - to examine the relationship between individuals, government and the food industry and to explore how responsibility for healthy eating is apportioned and why there has been little success in improving population diets. Her PhD was informed by an interest in research on the food system, public health and behavioural justice. 

Research Area
Health inequalities
Health policy
Health promotion
Public health
Social and structural determinants of health
Behaviour change
Qualitative methods
Policy analysis
Social Sciences
Disease and Health Conditions
Non-communicable diseases

Selected Publications

‘Complexity’ as a rhetorical smokescreen for UK public health inaction on diet
Savona N; Thompson C; Smith D; Cummins S
Critical Public Health
NIHR SPHR Guidance on Systems Approaches to Local Public Health Evaluation. Part 1: Introducing systems thinking.
Egan M; McGill E; Penney T; Anderson de Cuevas R; Er V; Orton L; Lock K; Popay J; Savona N; Cummins S
NIHR SPHR Guidance on Systems Approaches to Local Public Health Evaluation. Part 1: Introducing systems thinking.
NIHR SPHR Guidance on Systems Approaches to Local Public Health Evaluation. Part 2: What to consider when planning a systems evaluation.
Egan M; McGill E; Penney T; Anderson de Cuevas R; Er V; Orton L; White M; Lock K; Cummins S; Savona N
England's childhood obesity action plan II.
Knai C; Lobstein T; Petticrew M; Rutter H; Savona N
BMJ (Clinical research ed)
The need for a complex systems model of evidence for public health.
Rutter H; Savona N; Glonti K; Bibby J; Cummins S; Finegood DT; Greaves F; Harper L; Hawe P; Moore L
Tackling Obesities: 10 years on.
Savona N; Rutter H; Cummins S
Journal of epidemiology and community health
Exposing complexity as a smokescreen: a qualitative analysis
Savona N; Thompson C; Rutter H; Cummins S
See more Publications