Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care


Aswathikutty Gireesh

Gireesh photo

Title: Social-to-Biological Pathway to Cognitive and Physical Impairment
Supervisor: Dr Dorina Cadar; Professor Anne McMunn; Professor Amanda Sacker
Lay summary: Maximising opportunity for independent, healthy ageing and reducing inequalities in later life has emerged as a key priority in national and local policies and NHS plans in the United Kingdom.  One way to achieve this is to delay the onset of cognitive and physical impairment. Since these conditions could emerge earlier in some disease trajectories such as dementia or Parkinson disease, a greater understanding of the main risk factors and underlying biological mechanisms are timely and critical.  My research aims to understand the mechanisms; particularly the neuroinflammatory and epigenetic processes, through which socioeconomic inequalities in cognitive and physical impairment emerge among the older population.  Results from this study might have the potential to contribute to an evidential framework for understanding some common social and biological roots of the social gradient in impairment in later life. Findings from this study can provide additional insights into how SEP matters for underlying biophysiological functioning in later life.  It might also offer incremental value to the knowledge base on the potential utility of DNAm as a peripheral biomarker of CI and PI among high risk older adults.

My Background As a dentist by profession, I always viewed health problems independent of the social context in which it occurs. I focussed my attention on diagnosing the disease rather than understanding the illness. However, exposure to community involvement activities in India, as a valuable learning tool, helped me identify high-risk groups and the associated social inequalities prevailing in the community, which in turn strengthened my interest in public health. As a logistic extension of my academic pursuits, I decided to do a masters in dental public health at King’s College London.  The postgraduate study gave me insights into the epidemiological studies, social inequalities and research methodology.

My interest in undertaking an interdisciplinary PhD in biosocial research stems directly from my knowledge gained through the master’s program and post-study research experiences at UCL. Working as a part of a Department of Health-funded project at UCL, I have been involved in multiple areas of research, such as health inequalities; child wellbeing; mental health competence; and cognitive ability.  The diverse experience of working in various health domains incorporating medical, social and behavioural factors strengthened my research interests in biosocial research. As best described by Evans and colleagues, it motivated me to think about how social conditions could “get under the skin” to affect health and wellbeing.

King’s College London (KCL), MSc Dental Public Health [MDPH]. Distinction
Royal College of Surgeons, Diploma in Dental Public Health [DDPH, RCS (Eng.)]
University of Kerala, India, Bachelor of Dental Surgery [BDS]

Soc-B PhD studentship in biosocial research, jointly funded by the ESRC and BBSRC (2019-2023)
First BDS Top Mark Award: Indian Dental Association

  • Croker H, Russell S, Gireesh A, et al. Obesity prevention in the early years: a mapping study of national policies in England from a behavioural science perspective. 2020.
  • Pandey, A., Gireesh, A. & Viner, R. (in press). Feasibility, acceptability and effectiveness of young-people specific, integrated out-of-hospital services: A systematic review protocol. Systematic reviews. (PROSPERO 2017 CRD42017068836).
  • Sabbah, W.; Gireesh, A.; Chari, M.; Delgado-Angulo, E.K.; Bernabé, E. Racial Discrimination and Uptake of Dental Services among American Adults. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16, 1558
  • Gireesh A, Das S, Viner RM Impact of health behaviours and deprivation on wellbeing in a national sample of English young people BMJ Paediatrics Open 2018;2:e000335. doi: 10.1136/bmjpo-2018-000335
  • W. Sabbah, N. Gomaa, and A. Gireesh, “Stress, allostatic load and periodontal diseases,” Periodontology 2000, vol. 78, pp. 154–161, 2018
  • McGowan, J., Bonell, C., Allen, E., Warren, E., Gireesh, A., Bevilacqua, L., Viner, R., et al (2018). The Relationship between School-Level Factors and Adolescent Student Well-Being: Cross-Sectional Findings from the INCLUSIVE Trial. Journal of Adolescent Health, 62(2, Supplement), S14-S15. DOI: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2017.11.030    
  • Aswathikutty, A., Marcenes, W., Stansfeld, S. A., & Bernabé, E. (2017). Obesity, physical activity and traumatic dental injuries in adolescents from East London. Dent Trauma. DOI: 10.1111/edt.12318

KING’S COLLEGE LONDON, Dept. of Population and Patient Health: Academic Public Health Tutor (2016 - 2017)
UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON (UCL), Dept. of Population, Policy and Practice: Research Assistant (2017-2019 )

Contact details a.aswathikutty-gireesh@ucl.ac.uk