Penny Cook, Professor of Public Health, has been successfully appointed as Associate Dean: Research and Innovation for the School of Health and Society at the University of Salford.
After gaining her PhD from the University of Liverpool (1996), Penny took a Royal Society funded fellowship in Stockholm University. She joined Liverpool John Moores University’s Centre for Public Health in 1998 as a research fellow and was made Reader in Public Health Epidemiology in 2007. Her work at LJMU included Department of Health funded research on the overlap between population-level indicators of alcohol use, teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections in teenagers, and research contributing to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidance on HIV and sexual health.
Penny joined the University of Salford in June 2012 to teach on the successful MSc Public Health, and was made Professor in 2013. Alongside teaching, she is currently completing an NIHR-funded ‘community alcohol health champions’ project (Communities in Charge of Alcohol, CICA), which is looking at how the communities can support each other with alcohol advice and whether communities can influence local alcohol licensing decisions.
She also leads a research team investigating the impacts of alcohol exposure during pregnancy, and associated Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD), in collaboration with the National FASD Clinic. Her research recently made news headlines with the shocking findings that this under-recognised condition may affect 2-4% of children in the UK. She currently leads an NIHR funded project to test a parenting intervention for caregivers of children with FASD.
Research in other areas of public health include physical activity and the health benefits of greenspace. Her research on health and nature overlaps with a long-standing hobby—as an amateur ecologist, where she has co-authored books on ecological methods and studying invertebrates. Her other activities out of work include playing tennis (badly: a passion acquired during lockdown). As a recent empty-nester, she enjoys following her adult kids’ achievements and taking opportunities to travel.
On her appointment, Penny said: “I am coming up to my tenth anniversary of working at the University of Salford in a school with a vibrant and stimulating research culture. Our hard work and creativity have paid off, with the REF2021 results showing that the vast majority of our research is excellent and world leading, and has real impact on the people and communities we serve. With this new role, I am honoured and delighted to have been given an opportunity to support our amazing researchers, nurture our research culture and ensure that our research goes from strength to strength.”
Penny will take up her new role from 1 October, with Professor Ben Light remaining in post until that date.
Professor Margaret Rowe, Dean of the School of Health and Society, said: “I am delighted to welcome Penny to this important role. Following our fantastic results in REF 2021, I am sure Penny will lead the school to further enhance our position for the next REF cycle.”