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Dr Philippa Waterhouse

Dr Philippa Waterhouse

Profile summary

Professional biography

Dr Philippa Waterhouse joined the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies at the Open University in 2015 and is currently a Senior Lecturer in Health. Her educational background is in statistics and demography. Her academic work centres on exploring population health in under-researched contexts and groups, with a particular focus on women and children. She has applied this expertise to explore a diversity of substantial health challenges that manifest in a range of developmental contexts; including work-family balance in sub-Saharan Africa, the sexual and reproductive health (SRH) of young women in conflict contexts, and the SRH of women who have sex with women in the UK.


2015 – PhD in Social Statistics and Demography. Thesis title: Women’s economic and maternal role combination: A case study of coping strategies and consequences in Urban Ghana. University of Southampton.

2011 – MSc in Demography (Distinction). Dissertation title: Reasons for non-primary school enrolment: A case study of Ga Mashie, Accra, Ghana. University of Southampton 

2010 – BSc in Population Sciences (First Class Honours). Dissertation title: Stalling fertility in Rwanda: A quantitative analysis of the reasons behind the statistics. University of Southampton.

Research interests

Philippa’s research expertise lies at the intersection between Demography and Sociology. Her main research interest centres on the consequences the individual’s occupancy of multiple roles (for example as parent and worker) can have for individual, family, and organisational wellbeing. Her work can be broadly divided into two streams.

  1. The work-family-study interface and student wellbeing

Philippa’s research seeks to understand how students who have work and/or family responsibilities in addition to their student role manage their multiple responsibilities as the consequences for students’ outcomes. Her work aims to generate strategies that can be considered at the course design and delivery stage to support students who might be experiencing role conflict or overload. She was the Principal Investigator for a PRAXIS (Faculty of WELS scholarship centre) funded project ‘Wellbeing of Level 3 Distance Education Students: the importance of work and family factors’, leading the quantitative workstream from data collection to analysis. Currently, Philippa is the work-package lead for Positive Digital Practices (in collaboration with University of Bradford, University of Warwick, StudentMinds, and JISC). Her research aims to develop digital resources, including an interactive, that supports students’ navigation of their student journey alongside their personal circumstances, such as work and family responsibilities. 

  1. Work-family balance of women in sub-Saharan Africa

Philippa’s ESRC funded PhD used interviews with mothers of young child and statistical analysis of secondary datasets to explore the experience of working mothers of children in Accra, Ghana. Specifically, her research explored the strategies women used to combine their economic roles with their childcare responsibilities and impacts for mothers’ self-reported health and children’s wellbeing (with a particular focus on education). Since then, her work in area in this area has drawn upon advanced statistical analyses, such as sequence analysis, of secondary datasets. She has explored topics such as young women’s work and family work transitions and the relationships between maternal work and maternal and child health outcomes, such as self-reported health, educational attainment and vocabulary development.

Teaching interests

Philippa has held substantive roles in the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies postgraduate research studies teams, including:

  • PhD Convener for Health, Wellbeing and Social Care (2017-2019),
  • Programme Leader for the Professional Doctorate in Health and Social Care (DHSC) (2019-2022), and
  • OU Health and Wellbeing Pathway Lead for the Grand Union Doctoral Training Partnership (a collaboration between Brunel, Oxford and Open University) (2018-present).

Philippa has a passion for the harnessing of technology to enhance study quality of learning and student success. As the DHSC Programme Leader she led the development and delivery of the WELS new blended-learning professional doctorate programme which launched in October 2019. She also lead the development of a 'Map my skills' interactive tool In K311 (Promoting public health: skills, perspectives and practice)  to aid students in the collection of evidence for professional registration - a tool that has potential for application across a range of disciplines. 

Philippa’s expertise has also led to her contributing to the development of teaching materials focusing on timely and contemporary debates on health. She is currently involved in the development of a new public health degree at the Open University, including chairing the production of K119 ‘Wellbeing and the LifeCourse’ and writing on K310 Public health: health promotion and health security.

Impact and engagement

Philippa's research is explicitly designed to provide insights into the health of marginalised groups, in particular challenging strongly engrained assumptions. For example, her work on work-family balance in sub-Saharan Africa challenges assumptions around the compatibility of informal labour and childcare, and argues for the greater recognition of th relationship between women's work and other development goals. Her work also considers the application of knowledge, theories and concepts to under-researched contexts.

Philippa is committed to the development of open educational resources, which engages the public in key health debates. For example, she was one of the lead academics on the OpenLearn interactive 'Type 2 diabetes across the globe: What's going on?', which approaches a complex health topic in an accessible and engaging way.


The self-rated health of grandmothers caring for grandchildren: Evidence from South Africa (2024-03)
Waterhouse, Philippa and Bennett, Rachel
Journal of Population Ageing, 17 (pp. 129-146)

Positive Digital Practices: supporting positive learner identities and student mental wellbeing in technology-enhanced higher education (2024-02-15)
Lister, Kate; Riva, Elena; Hartley, Alison; Waterhouse, Philippa; Moller, Naomi; Downes, Leigh; Coughlan, Tim; Kukulska-Hulme, Agnes; McPherson, Elaine; Macdonald, Ian; Jones-Tinsley, Sophie; Brown, Cath and Tudor, Ruth
Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 2024, Article 5(1)

Creating an online educational resource to support learners navigate their studies alongside work and/or family (2024-02)
Waterhouse, Philippa and Moller, Naomi
The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 25(1) (pp. 226-239)

‘I have to pretend that I don’t care’: Stigma management among unmarried young mothers in South-Western Nigeria (2024)
Oluseye, Ayomide; Waterhouse, Philippa and Hoggart, Lesley
Global Public Health, 19, Article 2291699(1)

“It is not the end of my life”: positive identity (re)constructions among young mothers in rural South-Western Nigeria (2024)
Oluseye, Ayomide; Waterhouse, Philippa and Hoggart, Lesley
International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, 29, Article 2301579(1)

Creating an Open Online Educational Resource to Support Learners as They Navigate Their Studies Alongside Work and/or Family (2024)
Waterhouse, Philippa and Moller, Naomi
The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 25(1) (pp. 226-239)

Professional doctorates reconciling academic and professional knowledge: towards a diffractive re-reading (2024)
Dennis, Carol Azumah; Aubrey-Smith, Fiona; Álvarez, Inma; Waterhouse, Philippa and Ferguson, Gillian
Higher Education Research & Development ((Early access))

Early maternal work and child vocabulary development: evidence from Ethiopia (2023)
Waterhouse, Philippa and Bennett, Rachel
Journal of Family Studies, 29(2)

A network approach to understanding distance learners' experience of stress and mental distress whilst studying (2023)
Samra, Rajvinder; França, Alex Bacadini; Lucassen, Mathijs F G and Waterhouse, Philippa
International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, 20, Article 27(1)

“I really wanted to abort”: Desire for abortion, failed abortion and forced motherhood in South-Western Nigeria (2022)
Oluseye, Ayomide; Waterhouse, Philippa and Hoggart, Lesley
Global Public Health, 17(8) (pp. 1564-1577)

Distance education students' satisfaction: Do work and family roles matter? (2022)
Waterhouse, Philippa; Samra, Rajvinder and Lucassen, Mathijs
Distance Education, 43(1) (pp. 56-77)

The association between family structure and children’s BMI over time - the mediating role of income (2021-03)
Burkill, Sarah; Waterhouse, Philippa and Pazzagli, Laura
Annals of Epidemiology, 55 (pp. 83-90)

Combining and managing work-family-study roles and perceptions of institutional support (2021)
Samra, Rajvinder; Waterhouse, Philippa and Lucassen, Mathijs
Distance Education, 42(1) (pp. 88-105)

Mental distress and its relationship to distance education students’ work and family roles (2020)
Waterhouse, Philippa; Samra, Rajvinder and Lucassen, Mathijs
Distance Education, 41(4) (pp. 540-558)

Sources of Sex Information Used by Young British Women Who Have Sex with Women (WSW) and Women Who Have Sex Exclusively with Men (WSEM): Evidence from the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (2019-03-31)
Burkill, Sarah and Waterhouse, Philippa
Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 16(1) (pp. 22-30)

Sexual Problems and Distress among Men and Women with Same-Sex and Opposite-Sex Sexual Partners: An Analysis of a Nationally Representative Sample of Adults in Great Britain (2019)
Waterhouse, Philippa and Burkill, Sarah
International Journal of Sexual Health, 31(4) (pp. 363-374)

Work and Family Transitions and the Self-Rated Health of Young Women in South Africa (2018-04-30)
Bennett, R. and Waterhouse, Philippa
Social Science and Medicine, 203 (pp. 9-18)

Understanding processes of risk and protection that shape the sexual and reproductive health of young women affected by conflict: the price of protection. (2017-08-17)
Hutchinson, Aisha; Waterhouse, Philippa; March-McDonald, Jane; Neal, Sarah and Ingham, Roger
Conflict and health, 11, Article 15

Combining work and child care: The experiences of mothers in Accra, Ghana (2017-05-17)
Waterhouse, Philippa; Hill, Allan G. and Hinde, Andrew
Development Southern Africa, 34(6) (pp. 771-786)

The impact of multi-morbidity on disability among older adults in South Africa: do hypertension and socio-demographic characteristics matter? (2017-04-08)
Waterhouse, Philippa; van der Wielen, Nele; Banda, Pamela Chirwa and Channon, Andrew Amos
International Journal for Equity in Health, 16, Article 62

Understanding Early Marriage and Transactional Sex In the Context of Armed Conflict: Protection at a Price (2016-03)
Hutchinson, Aisha; Waterhouse, Philippa; March-McDonald, Jane; Neal, Sarah and Ingham, Roger
International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 42(1) (pp. 45-49)

Childbearing and Economic Work: The Health Balance of Women in Accra, Ghana (2016-02-28)
Waterhouse, Philippa; Hill, Allan G. and Hinde, Andrew
Maternal and Child Health Journal, 20(2) (pp. 408-421)

Exploring perceptions of social presence among researching professionals (2022-12-13)
Waterhouse, Philippa; Dennis, Carol Azumah and Álvarez, Inma
In: Golam, Jamil and Morley, Dawn eds. Agile Learning Environments amid Disruption: Evaluating Academic Innovations in Higher Education during COVID-19 (pp. 155-171)
ISBN : 978-3-030-92978-7 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan | Published : Cham

Researching from home. Doctoral research in a pandemic (2021-06)
Álvarez, Inma; Dennis, Carol Azumah and Waterhouse, Philippa
In: Ubachs, G. ed. The Envisioning Report for Empowering Universities (pp. 10-12)
Publisher : EADTU | Published : Maastricht, NL

Combining economic work and motherhood: challenges faced by women in sub-Saharan Africa (2021)
Waterhouse, Philippa; Bennett, Rachel; Aravinda, Guntupalli and Mokomone, Zitha
In: Baikady, Rajendra; Przeperski, Jaroslaw; Nadesan, Varishini; Islam, Rezaul and Jianguo, Gao eds. The Palgrave Handbook of Global Social Problems (pp. 1-19)
Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan | Published : Cham