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HEALR Research Group


2020 has been a very active and successful year for the HEALR Research Group. HEALR currently has four postgraduate research students under its umbrella, as well as links to a fifth. A particular focus over the last year has been on Tobacco Control. 15 publications written by HEALR members have been accepted, or have appeared in peer-reviewed journals in 2020. A further 3 publications by HEALR staff have been accepted in other more accessible publication types. 

HEALR Research Group Background

The HEALR Research Group was formed in 2014 as part of a concerted drive to develop a more visible, active and diverse research base in Limerick Institute of Technology. HEALR is one of three research groups that replaced the more generically oriented Irish Centre for Research in Applied Social Studies (ICRASS), which was established in LIT in 2006. These three research groups, the Loss & Grief Research Group, the Genders & Sexualities Research Group & the HEALR Research Group, developed a more specialised focus to reflect the growth of interest, specialisation and expertise in these topic areas. The three research groups continue to work closely together and often come together under the umbrella of Social Sciences Connexions. 

HEALR Research Group Aims & Principles

The aim of the HEALR Research Group is to focus and develop applied research in the health and social sciences fields in Limerick Institute of Technology and throughout the Mid-West. A particular focus of HEALR will be mental health. The HEALR Group aims to foster and cultivate research through providing a supportive research environment based on mutual respect, mutual assistance, innovation, experimentation and reflection.

  • The HEALR Group aims to use research to identify, highlight and combat inequalities, stereotyping, discrimination and social exclusion.
  • The HEALR Group will, within the resources available, provide support for students and staff embarking on relevant research in LIT and throughout the Mid-West region.
  • The HEALR Group will, within the resources available, provide support for voluntary and community groups embarking on relevant research in the Mid-West region.
  • The HEALR Group will work in an interdisciplinary manner, challenging traditional discipline-based approaches (i.e. breaking down the ‘silo mentality’)
  • The HEALR Group will support the development, implementation, critical evaluation and reflection on novel and more traditional approaches to research (including participatory, emancipatory and action research approaches).

HEALR Group members are committed to combatting inequalities, stereotyping, discrimination and social exclusion.

HEALR Group members are committed to developing their own research skills and those of others based on the Freirean assumption that ‘No one knows it all; no one is ignorant of everything. We all know something; we are all ignorant of something’.

2020 Activities
Publications in Peer-Reviewed Journals (Accepted or Appeared) 
  • Houghton, F. & Winterburn, M. (2020) Leprosy in Nepal: a re-emerging threat. Journal of Public Health Policy.
  • Houghton, F. & Houghton, S. (2020) Ebola Lessons for a Global Village: I am my brothers’ (and sisters’) keeper. Social Medicine/ Medicina Social. 13(2): 102-5. Dual Published in Spanish & English.
  • Houghton, F. & McInerney, D. (forthcoming) The Public Health (Alcohol) Act: Spatial issues and glaring gaps. Irish Geography.
  • Houghton, D. & Houghton, F. (2020) An Examination of Portrayals of Smoking in Graphic Novels/ Comic Books: A picture is worth a thousand words. Tobacco Prevention & Cessation. 6(July):41
  • O’Doherty, D., Houghton, F. & McKinerney, D. (forthcoming) Cultural Politics & the Legacy of Colonialism: Tobacco Control Warnings and the Irish Language Question. Irish Journal of Medical Science.
  • Houghton, F. (forthcoming) Re: The elephant in the room? Why spatial stigma does not receive the public health attention it deserves? Journal of Public Health. DOI: 10.1093/pubmed/fdaa057
  • Houghton F., Moran Stritch M., O’Doherty D. & McInerney D. (2020) EU Tobacco Controls & the Importance of Gender: Time to Ban Slim & Superslim Cigarettes. Malta Journal of Health Sciences. 7(1): 39-48.
  • Houghton, F. (2020) Technological Universities in Ireland: The New Imperative. Irish Journal of Academic Practice. 8 (1):12. 
  • Houghton, F., O’Doherty, D., Houghton, B. (2020) Teeth or no teeth: Exploring Punitive Measures for Adults Smoking in Cars Containing Children in Aotearoa/ New Zealand. New Zealand Medical Journal 33(1508):118-122.
  • Houghton F., McInerney D. (2020) Media coverage of major sporting events: alcohol, crowd shots and the Rugby World Cup 2019. Ir J Med Sci 189(4): 1495-1499. doi: 10.1007/s11845-020-02206-6.
  • Houghton, F. (2020) Response to Removing the last billboard for the tobacco industry: Tobacco standardized packaging in Ireland. Health Policy 124(1):113-114.
  • Houghton, F. (2020) Re: Environmental health in Australia: overlooked and underrated. Journal of Public Health 42(2): 435–436. DOI: 10.1093/pubmed/fdz055
  • Houghton, F. (2020) Re: Infiltrating history into the public health curriculum. Journal of Public Health 42(2): 437–438. DOI: 10.1093/pubmed/fdz044
  • Moran Stritch MJ, Houghton F, O'Doherty D, McInerney D, Duncan B. (2020) Tobacco control and 'plain packaging': performativity, cigarettes and the semiotics of brand names. Irish Journal of Medical Science. 189(1):405-407. 
  • Houghton, F. (2020) Tobacco control and cigarette vending machines in Ireland: time to quit! Irish Journal of Medical Science. 189(2):449-450.

Publications in Bulletins, Newsletters, Trade & Popular Press (Accepted or Appeared)
  • Houghton, F. (forthcoming) No Ordinary Commodity: Tobacco (Nicotiana Tabacum) Production in Ireland. Irish Botanical Newsletter.
  • Houghton, F. (forthcoming) Micro-geographies, psycho-geographies and the COVID-19 lockdown. GeoNews.
  •  Houghton, F. (forthcoming) Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)/ Social Life Cycle Assessment (S-LCA) and Conflict of Interest (COI) procedures: a cautionary note. GeoNews.

Conference Presentations – 2020
  • Houghton, F. (2020) Participation in video/ web-based project, Human Library of Religions and Beliefs, released as part of Limerick Lifelong Learning Festival, 2020.
Other Media
  • Coverage in NRC.NL (Dutch Newspaper) on research on ‘Blacklists’ & ‘Whitelists’, 14th July 2020.
  • Coverage on CNN of article on ‘Blacklists’ & ‘Whitelists’, 6th July 2020.
  • Research discussed in ‘Tracing out a future path for Embrace Farm’ in The Farmers Journal, Embrace Farm Supplement, p. 31. June 20th 2020. This research also made the Six-One News on RTE 1.

Postgraduate Students

One PhD student co-supervised by a HEALR Group member passed her PhD subject to corrections, and subsequently submitted her corrections. Another postgraduate student progressed has recently submitted her intention to submit her PhD notification to submit her thesis. A number of other postgraduate students are registered and continue to work on their projects.

Service - 2020

HEALR Research Group members continue to review articles on a regular basis for established academic journals. In new developments, a HEALR Group member has also started to act as a referee for the New Zealand Health Research Council, and as a member of the National Open Research Forum Open Access (NORF-OA) Group. In addition, HEALR Group members are actively involved serving on Sub-Committees of the Academic Council.  The HEALR Group also continues to provide a Chair for the HSE’s Mid-Western Traveller Health Form quarterly meetings.


Heavy teaching loads and the lack of a workload allocation plan that recognizes research and publishing activities continue to hamper the development of more substantive and focused research activities. 

The COVID-19 outbreak has stalled two studies examining physician behavior that were due to start in hospital settings in Ireland and the US. The switch to online teaching also impacted research productivity, publications, and conference presentations. 

Plans for 2021

HEALR Research Group members have a busy year planned for 2021. It is anticipated that this will involve the completion of a number of ongoing projects.

Existing Projects /  New Projects
  • Therapeutic Landscapes
  • Emergency Preparedness
  • Tobacco Control
  • Emotion in Academic Writing
  • Mindfulness
  • Child Mental Health
  • Spatial distribution of Micro-Libraries
  • Hepatitis B Vaccination Uptake
  • Personal Development
  • Tobacco Control
  • Medical Dominance in the hospital theatre
  • Alcohol Control & Advertising
  • Gambling Control & Advertising
  • Carnegie Micro-Libraries in Lighthouses