If you made any changes in Pure these will be visible here soon.

Personal profile

Research interests


My research examines sport, physical activity and physical/health education from a critical/socio-cultural perspective.  I have authored over 150 publications on topics including the social and cultural dimensions of: digital health technologies; obesity policy and politics; eating disorders and education; the body.  I have led a number of International research projects and I am a named investigator on research grants totaling over £668,000. Citations of my work currently total 2430 with an h-index of 27.

In broad terms, my research focuses on critical pedagogies of health and physical activity;  advancing theoretical frameworks to understand how people learn about health and their bodies (pedagogical processes) and the impact this has on their identities, health practices, and physical activity. This work has contributed to the fields of sociology of health, critical weight studies, health studies, sociology of education and pedagogy.

To this end, my work in this area is advancing novel theoretical approaches to understanding health.   Rather than focusing purely on sport, my articulations of the physically active body considers its socio-cultural constitution across a myriad of sites and practices.  As such, my work is informed by and informs the field of ‘public pedagogy’; a theoretical construct in education research focusing on processes of learning in sites beyond formal schooling. Through my research programme, I not only explore the contemporary practices, discourses and subjectivities through which active bodies are governed, regulated and experienced in contemporary society, but draw on recent theorisations of education and expressions of social action to challenge social inequalities of health and physical cultures.

The practical application of these theories is providing novel, qualitative evidence shaping physical activity and health debates and informing related policies and practices. My research focuses on three key areas:

1) physical activity, health and obesity.

Governments have made and are continuing to make substantial investments in policies, strategies and research to address the perceived risks of obesity and related health issues. In particular, my research has examined the implications of the ways in which schools have been targeted to address this issue. This research seeks to inform public policy and school practices by examining how health imperatives/messages are taken up in different social contexts and in turn influence the ways people make sense of health and shape their practices related to physical activity and food. Some of the major contributions include; new and distinct theoretical perspectives on health and obesity; development of alternative health practices; contributions to special issues of leading journals; publications with health practitioners, activists and cultural workers and international scholars; guiding health practice and theory in relation to physical activity and weight. This work has contributed to contemporary public health debates about obesity and shaped the field of critical weight studies

2) Eating disorders and education:

In a related area, I have undertaken research examining the relationship between the cultures, policies and practices of schools and the development of eating disorders. As outlined below, this work has offered unique qualitative perspectives informing understanding of the development of this complex condition.

3) Digital health technologies

This area of research is focused on the relationship between learning, technologies and health including recent developments in exergaming, mobile health, social media and the growth in seeking health information via the Internet (medicalisation of cyberspace). This work is grounded in critical digital health studies and I have written on issues such as self-tracking cultures, mobile health apps, social media and the body. I am currently leading an international research collaboration (funded by the Wellcome Trust) with Professor Deborah Lupton and Professor Andy Miah ‘The Digital Health Generation: The impact of ‘healthy lifestyle’ technologies on young people's learning, identities and health practices. The study will be the first to explore how young people engage with their health through new digital health technologieis.

I have written for a range of different publishing outlets, having published over 150 articles for conferences, books, encyclopedias, academic journals and newspapers. My major publications (books) are The Medicalization of Cyberspace (2008, Routledge, with Professor Andy Miah) Education, Disordered eating and Obesity Discourse: Fat Fabrications (2008, Routledege, with Professor John Evans) and Debating Obesity: Critical Perspectives (2011, Palgrave, with Monaghan and Aphramor).

I have been awarded research funding from a range of sources including the Wellcome Trust, Economic and Social Research Council, the Society for Educational Studies, the International Olympic Committee, the International Olympic Academy and the Australian Research Council. I am a member of various academic associations and working groups including the British Educational Research Association, International Critical Obesity Network, International Olympic Academy Association, founder of the International Gender Sport and Society Forum and an invited associate fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine.

In keeping with my a public pedagogy perspective, much of my work engages with a range of cultural workers (eg artists and creative industries) and communities, seeing this relationship as crucial to developing a socially engaged approach to the active body.  My research on the surveillance of young people’s bodies was the subject of an art exhibition on ‘body culture’ in Bath, UK. In 2012 I worked with relays at watershed and the city of Bristol College students to produce a documentary on the paralympics. This was part of a broader project I was involved with #media2012 undertaking research on how young people learn through citizen media – this involved young people utilising social media applications to report on the London2012 Olympics and Paralympics. I have also published on various aspects of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.




Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality


Dive into the research topics where Emma Rich is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
  • 1 Similar Profiles

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or