Professor Lesley Smith

Professor of Women's Public Health


01482 463710

Lesley's research focuses on the behavioural determinants of health and on developing interventions to improve the health and wellbeing of women of reproductive age.

A particular focus is on alcohol intake and dietary behaviours, and their impact on maternal and infant outcomes, and the effect of physical activity / sedentary behaviour on pregnancy and childbirth.

Lesley previously led the Oxford Brookes University Maternal and Women’s Public Health research group. She has also held posts at the Centre for Statistics in Medicine and the Pain Research Unit at the University of Oxford. Her background is in nursing.



Research Interests

  • Behavioural science and prevention
  • Health and lifestyle behaviours, e.g. alcohol consumption, physical activity and diet
  • Pre-conception and pregnancy
  • Individual and community-level interventions
  • Anaemia in women of reproductive age and during pregnancy

Research groups

  • Member of the Maternal and Reproductive Health (MaRH) research group, Institute for Clinical and Applied Health Research, University of Hull
  • Midwives' assessment of expecting mothers' alcohol use (MAMA) with the University of Edinburgh
  • Schools Health Promotion Project in Jigawa State, Nigeria with Dr Ahmed Sarki, Aga Khan University, Uganda and FAYOHI, Nigeria
  • Community-based approaches to improve bowel screening uptake in South Asians funded by Bowel Cancer UK with Oxford Brookes University


Coathup V, Northstone K, Izadi H, Wheeler S, Smith L, 'Do maternal dietary antioxidants modify the relationship between binge drinking and small for gestational age? Findings from a longitudinal cohort study', Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 42(11), pp 2196-2204 (2018)

Coathup V, Northstone K, Gray R, Wheeler S, Smith L, 'Dietary Patterns and Alcohol Consumption During Pregnancy: Secondary Analysis of Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children', Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 41(6), pp 1120-1128 (2017)

Symon A, Rankin J, Sinclair H, Butcher G, Smith L, Gordon R, Cochran L, 'Evaluation of a Retrospective Diary for peri-conceptual and mid-pregnancy drinking in Scotland: a cross-sectional study', Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, 96(1), pp 53-60 (2017)

Symon A, Rankin J, Sinclair H, Butcher G, Barclay K, Gordon R, MacDonald M, Smith L, ‘Peri-conceptual and mid-pregnancy drinking: A cross-sectional assessment in two Scottish health board areas using a 7-day Retrospective Diary’, Journal of Advanced Nursing, 73(2), pp 375-385 (2017)

Foxcroft D R, Moreira M T, Almeida Santimano N M, Smith L A, ‘Social norms information for alcohol misuse in university and college students’, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (2015)

Full publications list



Modules list

  • Epidemiology
  • Data Analysis and Interpretation

Research PhDs

Lesley welcomes students interested in research that takes a lifecourse approach to improving maternal and infant health through harm prevention, in particular

  • the development of innovative strategies for the prevention of alcohol-exposed pregnancies
  • The development of innovative behaviour change strategies to improve pre-conception health and/or maternal and infant health
  • research that informs how to embed prevention into the working practice of midwives and other health professionals
  • research with a global health perspective involving reproductive and maternal health


Completed PhDs

  • Sarah Hennelly, Women’s health behaviours during pregnancy: the development and evaluation of a mindfulness-based behaviour change intervention
  • Victoria Coathup, Investigating relationships between maternal micronutrient intakes, dietary patterns and alcohol consumption during pregnancy
  • Jane Henderson, How does women’s experience of maternity care influence their outcomes?
  • Ethel Burns, Intrapartum birthing pool use in the UK

Professional highlights


Academic qualifications

  • PhD, Neuropharmacology, Oxford Brookes University (1997)
  • BSc (Hons) Cell and Molecular Biology, Oxford Brookes University (1992)

Partnerships and collaborations

  • Member of the Nursing and Midwifery Academic Network of the World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre (WHOCC) for Public Health Nursing and Midwifery
  • Member of UK Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) network
  • Member of North East and Cumbria Regional Alcohol Use in Pregnancy working group

Awards and accolades

Founding member of Zumba 4 Bump (established 2012), a community support and social group delivering dance-based exercise and childbirth preparation advice and support to pregnant women and new mums in Oxford. Awarded a Social Enterprise ‘Build It Award’ funded by Unlimited (HEFCE) in 2013; and Big Lottery ‘Awards for All’ in 2015.