Professor Brian Brown

Job: Professor of Health Communication

Faculty: Health and Life Sciences

School/department: School of Applied Social Sciences

Address: De Montfort, University, The Gateway, Leicester, LE1 9BH.

T: +44 (0)116 207 8755




Personal profile

The core of Prof Brown's work has focused on the interpretation of human experience across a variety of different disciplines including health care, philosophy, education and spirituality studies, exploring how this may be understood with a view to improving practice and with regard to theoretical development in the social sciences. Particularly, this concerns notions of governmentality and habitus from Foucauldian and Bourdieusian sociology and how the analysis of everyday experience can afford novel theoretical developments.

Prof Brown has completed twelve books and around seventy refereed journal articles. Most notably, his books have included Evidence based health communication (with P. Crawford and R. Carter, Open University Press, 2006) and Evidence based Research: Dilemmas and debates in health care (with P. Crawford and C. Hicks, Open University Press, 2003). As well as health care, his papers have ranged across fields such as linguistics, education and sociology.

Notably this has included The habitus of hygiene (with P. Crawford, B. Nerlich and N. Koteyko, Social Science and Medicine, Post antibiotic apocalypse’: Discourses of mutation in narratives of MRSA, (with Paul Crawford, Sociology of Health and Illness 31 (4): 508-524, Soft authority: Ecologies of infection management in the working lives of modern matrons and infection control staff, (with Paul Crawford, Sociology of Health and Illness, 30, (5): 756-771), The clinical governance of the soul (with Crawford, Social Science and Medicine 55: 67-81) and Clinical governmentality (with P. Crawford and L. Mullany, Journal of Applied Linguistics 2: 273-298).

Research group affiliations

  • Psychology Research Group
  • Participation & Social Justice Research Group,
  • Mary Seacole Research Centre,
  • Health Policy Research Unit

Research interests/expertise

  • Health communication
  • Health policy
  • The historical sociology of Wales
  • Philosophy of Science
  • Epistemology
  • Social theory.

Areas of teaching

  • Theoretical and epistemological perspectives in the social sciences
  • Mental health issues
  • Interpersonal relationships,
  • Qualitative methodologies,
  • Sociology.

Current teaching includes:

  • Mental Health and Society, PSYC3200
  • Final year projects PSYC3000/PSYC3001
  • Research designs in health HEST5001
  • M.Res, MA and DHSci dissertations
  • University’s training programme for research students.



Conference attendance

Brown, B.J. “Power and responsibility: Devolving risk to patients in an age of neoliberalism” Medical Humanities Conference, Swansea, April 2011.

Brown, B.J. ‘‘Talking about Health in English’ International Conference on English for Specific Purposes at Fooyin University November 2008.

Brown, B.J. ‘Hygiene as habitus: Putting Bourdieu to work in hospital infection control’ Emerging Diseases: Structure, controversy and change in the scientific constitution of disease patterns, University of Hamburg, February 2008.

Current research students

Prof Brown currently has 12 PhD students undertaking research on a variety of topics, including communication between health professionals and clients, the role of emotions in human service work, the role of ancient Cypriot art in contemporary creative practice and the life narratives of people in the health professions. He has examined PhD candidates on 28 occasions. 

Externally funded research grants information

AHRC programme Grant for 'Creative practice as mutual recovery: Connecting communities for mental health and wellbeing'. This is a multi-centre study involving the universities of Nottingham, Derby, Wolverhampton, Falmouth and the Royal College of Music. This programme of related projects will attempt to bring together service users, carers and practitioners in creative activities centred upon music, photography, sculpture and storytelling as well as adult education. £1.5m 2013-2018.      

CI in International Health Humanities Network Funded by the AHRC. With Paul Crawford to provide a website, a seminar series and a conference to promote the health humanities £38,000, August 2011 – July 2013.

CI in Experiences of surgical site infection Study funded by the Infection Prevention Society 2011-2012 with Judith Tanner and Wendy Padley. £4,985.

Madness in contemporary English literature. A study of the representation of madness in post 1945 English language fiction funded by the Leverhulme Trust (£91,830) with a team from Nottingham University including Paul Crawford (principal investigator) Ronald Carter, Maurice Lipsedge. March 2007-March 2010.

Cleanliness and infection control; A comparative study of discourses of cleanliness in health and agriculture examining discourses surrounding biosecurity concentrating on infections such as MRSA and zoonoses such as avian flu, funded by the ESRC (£151,000) with a team from Nottingham University, including Brigitte Nerlich (principal investigator) Paul Crawford, Ronald Carter. Rated ‘outstanding’. May 2006 to October 2008.

Mothers, Wives and Changing Lives; A project concerned with oral history and women’s working lives in mid-twentieth century Wales, funded by the British Academy (£6655) with a team from Bangor University including Howard Davies and Sally Baker. January 2007 - March 2007.

Internally funded research project information

Healthcare-Associated Infection Control in the Ambulance Service. Grant from De Montfort University’s Revolving Investment Fund to conduct a study of healthcare associated infection risk and infection control in the ambulance service. October 2010 to July 2011.

The experience of illness. Grant from De Montfort University’s pump priming fund to conduct a study of peoples’ experience of long term, non–life-threatening illness. February 2005 – July 2005.

Role plays in the assessment of nurses undergoing training as nurse prescribers. Grant from De Montfort University’s pump priming fund to cover equipment and transcription costs. February 2002 – July 2002.

Online learning for postgraduates in qualitative methodology Funded through the Roberts scheme, this project sought to develop an online learning module in qualitative methodology for De Montfort University’s postgraduate students, with Simon Rogerson and Matthew Croft Wake. This led to the development of module no. REST7526. July 2009-July 2010.

Professional esteem indicators

Prof Brown has served as a reviewer for Social Science and Medicine, Journal of Social Work, Journal of Applied Linguistics, Human Relations, Journal of Advanced Nursing, Feminism and Psychology, Health Risk and Society, Biomed Central, Diversity in Health and Care, Sociologia Ruralis, Health and Social Care in the Community.

Guest editor of special issues Journal of Medical Humanities (2012) and Mental Health Review (2011) on the humanities in health care.

Case studies

Brief communication in health care
A current focus of interest is that of brief encounters and brief communication in health care. Initial indications suggest that relatively fleeting encounters can make a huge difference to the emotional feel of the health care experience and can even accelerate recovery for patients. Despite guidance in documents such as Tomorrow’s Doctors (General Medical Council, 2009) which stresses the desirability of involving patients in decision making about their care and Good Medical Practice (2009) emphasising working in partnership with patients, a production line approach all too frequently prevails in practice. Even in formally scheduled consultations, the emphasis is often to elicit information and undertake standardized assessments as quickly as possible rather than form a supportive social relationship. Therefore there is an urgent need to explore how these time-limited encounters can be rendered as effective as possible. Our work on what we have called ‘Brief, Ordinary and Effective’ (BOE) communication in health care has already excited interest. It has informed the Chief Nursing Officer’s report on Mental Health Nursing (Department of Health, 2006), which required application in all mental health nurse training and practice in the UK. More recently, the commissioned report into the impact of Chief Nursing Officer’s review found that the BOE-driven communication competencies and capabilities achieved the highest implementation score for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) (Callaghan et al, 2010). The BOE Model was originally presented in outline in Brown et al (2006) and further developed in Crawford et al (2006) and Brown and Crawford (2011). Possible future developments include further dissemination via Managed Innovation Networks and a book length monograph for which we have commenced negotiation with publishers.

Health Humanities
An unexpected area of success over the last few years has concerned the health humanities. This represents an attempt to explore interrelationships between the humanities and health care disciplines and the contribution of the humanities and arts to the full range of health care disciplines. It represents a broader and more inclusive approach than the existing medical humanities, which has often focussed on the ethics, history and philosophy of medicine itself. This new discipline also offers the possibilities of innovative and creative contributions to therapeutic activity. This ambition was prompted by our success in obtaining a Leverhulme grant to study representations of madness in English literature from 1945 to the present, and an AHRC grant to set up a ‘Madness and Literature Network’. This yielded a seminar series through 2008-2010 and culminated in an international conference in August 2010 attracting speakers from the US and over 30 other countries in the global scholarly community. Of particular note were contributions from internationally renowned scholars Elaine Showalter (The Female Malady) and Kay Redfield Jamison (Touched by Fire, An Unquiet Mind). Following on from this we have guest edited a special issue of Journal of Medical Humanities (for over thirty years the leading journal in the medical humanities field) composed of key papers from the conference. In addition we edited a special issue of Mental Health Review on the role of the humanities in mental health care.

The AHRC have also generously supported our International Health humanities Network

We have recently secured an AHRC Programme Grant to fund a multi centre study of arts and humanities in mental health care, involving scholars and practitioners from numerous institutions. The initiatives in this programme include projects concerned with photography, music, sculpture, and storytelling where service users, carers and practitioners are brought together to benefit from creative activities. 

This health humanities initiative offers the possibility of international leadership in a field poised to develop rapidly in the next few years. It offers also the opportunity to develop novel interdisciplinary collaborations and creative syntheses. From the point of view of the health and social sciences it provides innovative means of dissemination and impact, through exhibition, performance, drama and literature as well as formal academic publishing, to seek new syntheses, develop further humanities and arts based interventions in health and social care and enhance dissemination and impact.