Dr Tarra Penney

TarraPenneyResearch Associate

Email: tarra.penney@mrc-epid.cam.ac.uk

UKCRC Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR)
MRC Epidemiology Unit
University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine
Box 285 Institute of Metabolic Science
Cambridge Biomedical Campus
Cambridge, CB2 0QQ

Current work & interests

Tarra is a Research Associate with the Food Behaviours and Public Health Interventions programme led by Prof Martin White. She is supporting the system level evaluation of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy, a nation-wide policy to reduce sugar in soft drinks by targeting importers and manufacturers. This evaluation serves as the first study grounded in a ‘systems approach’ to evaluate whether, how and in whom the levy has an effect on health. Additionally, the evaluation will examine the process by which the tax came about, as well as a wider change in political, societal and industry attitudes.

The aim of Tarra’s research is to better understand the prevention of obesity and chronic disease through studying the effects of population level interventions implemented within the complex social, economic and political systems that impact healthy living for everyone. Specifically, she is interested in the development and testing of complex theories of change, and exploring the use of a range of qualitative and quantitative methods and evidence synthesis to examine how dietary public health interventions work or why they fail. She is also keenly interested in finding novel ways to communicate complex ideas and research findings to decision makers and the public without resorting to overly simplistic messaging.

Background & experience

Tarra completed her PhD at CEDAR in dietary public health with a focus on improving our understanding of how and under what circumstances a change in local food availability may influence population level diet and weight. Her studentship was funded by the Cambridge Trusts.

Prior to her PhD, Tarra studied psychology and computer science, completed a CIHR funded Master’s degree in health promotion, and published in the area of obesity with a focus on population health intervention research as a Research Associate with Dr Sara Kirk at the Healthy Populations Institute in Canada. She has also completed a two year CIHR training fellowship in Population Intervention for Chronic Disease Prevention, a pan-Canadian program with the PROPEL Centre for Population Health Impact where she received mentorship from leading Canadian researchers in the field.