Research project

The linguistic shaping of public health outcomes: a case study on the understanding and uptake of resilience-related language in the context of food insecurity and poverty

Project overview

The language used in public policy and media mediates discourses around resilience. We note an increasing use of the word in delineating how a ‘resilient’ individual and community should look like. There is prior work on the understanding of resilience particularly in the area of natural disasters as well as climate change and security. However, resilience discourses have also been recontextualised into debates about public health and social policy.

The style of public health messaging has the potential to inform and strengthen community mobilisation to influence policy decision making, but we first need to understand the process of its utilisation and adaptation. This pilot work around specific language references (resilience or synonyms) within the specific context of rising food insecurity and poverty (established determinants of health inequalities) will inform the design of research examining how political and media messaging and ‘labelling’ shape scientific and policy prioritisation and decision-making.


In the context of the ‘cost-of-living’ crisis, food insecurity and poverty:

Critically analyse the language and dominant ideologies attached to the ‘resilience’ reference in public health, policy, voluntary sector, and mainstream media content, with a particular focus on:

Exploring the uptake and purpose of the semantic field surrounding the words ‘resilience’ and ‘resilient’ in academic and professional communication.

Examining the balance of individual responsibility vs population-level conditions/policy impact attached to ‘resilience’ when used and/or received

Explore what members of the public with varying intersectional lived experiences understand by the words ‘resilient’ and ‘resilience’, when used to refer to them individually, their communities or the issues they have lived experience of


Conduct a focused analysis of policy documents and media discourse

Conduct a qualitative focus group with members of the public to explore what messaging around resilience in the contexts described above means to them


Lead researcher

Professor Nisreen A Alwan MBE, MBChB, MRCP, FFPH, MPH, MSc, PhD, FHEA, PGCAP

Professor of Public Health

Research interests

  • Public Health
  • Lifecourse Epidemiology
  • Long Covid
Connect with Nisreen A

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