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Dr Rachel Brown

Research Fellow, DECIPHer

School of Social Sciences

+44 (0)29 22510090
1-3 Museum Place


I am Research Associate based at the DECIPHer centre at Cardiff University, contributing to the programmes of research into mental, health substance misuse in youth settings and complex intervention development. I am currently lead investigator on the 'Theory of Change Development and Evaluability Assessment for the Whole School Approach to Mental Health', funded by Welsh Government. I also the lead the module 'Health Improvement' on the Masters in Public Health.

I recently completed process evaluation work on an NIHR-funded evaluation of the EU Tobacco Products Directive, and a CRUK-funded study of primary school children’s awareness and attitudes towards e-cigarettes.


Senior Research Officer, Welsh Government. Dec 2015 – Nov 2016 (secondment)

My role was to work with colleagues in health research to develop and commission policy evaluations and to provide evidence reviews as requested by health colleagues. I designed and commissioned a review of the Welsh Government 10-year substance misuse strategy ‘Working Together to Reduce Harm’, which is currently being undertaken. Findings will inform ongoing policy development in this area. I also conducted an evidence review of alcohol warning labelling as a potential intervention.

Project Officer (Students and Alcohol), NUS Wales. Aug 2010 – Sept 2012

My role was to deliver an alcohol social norms project, co-funded by Welsh Government and Drinkaware. This involved liaison with universities to deliver successful trial rollout, to map existing alcohol processes and to aid the project evaluation team from DECIPHer, Cardiff University. I developed a comprehensive guidance toolkit for universities, offering support and advice on alcohol policy and practice. This toolkit has since been disseminated to universities in Wales and forms part of Wales Healthy HE and FE guidance.

Strengthening Families Coordinator (Temporary), Cardiff Alcohol and Drug Team. Jan 2010 - Aug 2010

My role was to organise and deliver an evidence-based programme for families and youth to prevent future problematic alcohol use. I was responsible for all aspects of delivery, including recruitment of families, staff supervision and management of budget. The course had been dormant in Cardiff for a year prior to my appointment due to funding issues. I successfully re-launched it and completed delivery of two programmes as well as recruiting and supervising a new team of volunteer facilitators.

Substance Misuse Worker, Inroads Street Drugs Project. Apr 2005 – Dec 2009

My work involved substance misuse education and prevention with 11-25 year olds, in community and educational settings, including local authority care, pupil referral units, schools and colleges, as well as maintaining a caseload of both youth and adult service users who were using legal and illegal substances problematically. I started with the agency as a volunteer and left as supervisor, second to the project manager and with responsibility for managing staff and volunteers, as well as recruitment, volunteer training and induction. I raised the local profile of the service and significantly improved number of referrals received, leading to increased funding and service capacity. Within my supervisory role I undertook an assessment of the agencies training procedures on Confidentiality and Child Protection and redesigned these to reflect best practice and current guidance, as well as implementing a Continuing Professional Development programme for staff, designed to reflect National Occupational Standards for drug and alcohol workers.

Speaking engagements

    • Conference presentation - Wales Student Health Forum conference: Substance use and professionalism, Cardiff 2014. Alcohol and Student Well-being
  • Conference presentation - Alcohol Research UK Postgraduate and Early Career Symposium 2014. Case study analysis of new student alcohol consumption.
  • Conference presentation - Journal of Youth Studies Conference, Copenhagen 2015. Conceptions of adulthood as a barrier to interventionist approaches to alcohol in university settings.
  • Conference presentation - Alcohol Research UK Postgraduate and Early Career Symposium 2016.
  • Conference presentation - SRHE Early Career Researcher Conference. Dec 2017. The challenge of reducing alcohol-related harm in student populations: balancing duty of care with staff and student expectations of adult responsibility

    Committees and reviewing

    Journal Reviewer, Journal of Youth Studies


    I am co-convenor on the DECIPHer short course 'Process Evaluation', which provides an introduction to process evaluation methods within public health improvement interventions. Delegates learn about developing research questions, using intervention theory, logic models and research design.

    I am co-convenor on the module 'Health Improvement' within the Masters in Public Health.

    I am a teaching contributor to the third-year undergraduate module 'Sociology of Health and Illness' and the Child and Youth Policy module of the Masters in Social Work. I also teach on the Masters on Public Health.

    My PhD research was on factors influencing alcohol use in new university students, including analysis of complex settings for manifestation of drinking behaviour. My thesis adopted a socio-ecological approach to alcohol use in first year university students through examination of the interaction of individual, interpersonal and organisational factors that influence drinking behaviour. This project involved development of a broad range of knowledge and skills on research and analysis techniques, research design and theoretical approaches to health behaviour and public health policy. I currently contribute to the programme of research into youth substance use and the delivery and evaluation of complex interventions in youth settings. My PhD thesis considered the role of alcohol in interpersonal processes for students and organisational responses to management of alcohol issues. I am currently leading process evaluation work on an NIHR-funded evaluation of the EU Tobacco Products Directive, and a CRUK-funded study of primary school children’s awareness and attitudes towards e-cigarettes. I am also lead investigator on SaFE: an NIHR-funded study looking at sexual health intervention development in Further Education settings.