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Prof Cath Mercer
3rd Floor Mortimer Market Centre
off Capper Street
Prof Cath Mercer profile picture
  • Professor of Sexual Health Science
  • Infection & Population Health
  • Institute for Global Health
  • Faculty of Pop Health Sciences

A statistician and demographer by training, my career began leading the analyses for the second National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal). In 2005, I was awarded a Fellowship from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) (‘Exploring the contribution of general practice to the management of sexual health in the UK’); and then in 2008 began as Principal Investigator for the MRC-funded project ‘Public health outcomes, costs and cost-effectiveness of GUM and primary care based STI services’). In 2008, we also secured grants from the MRC and Wellcome Trust to undertake Natsal-3, the initial outputs being published as a series in the Lancet in 2013 (www.lancet.com/themed/natsal). In 2014, we won funding from the NIHR for the Health Protection Research Unit in Blood Borne and Sexually Transmitted Infections, for which I lead the Research Theme on ‘Understanding Risk and Risk Reduction’, covering epidemiological, social science, public health and clinical aspects of preventing STI transmission among those who experience the greatest STI burden. I co-lead Natsal, which is now funded as part of Wellcome Trust’s Longitudinal Population Studies Strategy, reflecting how, as repeat cross-sectional surveys, Natsal is able to capture age, period, and birth cohort effects and has captured - and will continue to capture - striking changes in the sexual behaviour, attitudes and heathcare behaviour of people born over much of the 20th Century.

Research Themes
Research Summary

My research builds upon my expertise in the application of statistics and epidemiological methods to answer research questions essential for improving sexual and reproductive health policy and practice. My research addresses a broad range of issues, in line with the World Health Organization endorsed definition of sexual health (www.who.int/topics/sexual_health/en/), including sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV, reproductive health and contraception, and sexual function, as well as health services research questions that seek to improve access to healthcare.

Whilst my background is in quantitative methods, through collaboration, much of my research now employs a mixed-method approach including:

> Developing and employing robust methods that advance the scientific study of sexual behaviour as well as sexual and reproductive health more broadly

> Measuring sexual behaviour in a variety of populations from hard-to-reach groups to the general population, in a range of settings, mainly in the UK

> Improving our understanding of partnership (vs. individual)-level sexual behaviour (e.g. sexual mixing) for public health benefit

> Monitoring behavioural trends, including in the context of assessing the impact of interventions and progress towards policy targets

Teaching Summary

My teaching and training portfolio includes supervision and examination of undergraduate and postgraduate students, and providing advice on studentships to undergraduates and fellowships to postgraduates. I provide academic support and supervision to staff and students at UCL and externally. An increasing proportion of my publications are co-authored by my trainees and those I have mentored, reflecting how enabling and capacity building are key components of my work. I regularly deliver training for professional bodies including the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) and the British HIV Association (BHIVA), and have authored online modules for the Department of Health’s eLearning for Health (eLfH) initiative.

Academic Background
2002   Doctor of Philosophy University of Southampton
1997   Master of Science University of Southampton
1996   Bachelor of Science (Honours) University of Southampton
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