Speakers 2021

Dr Graham Baker

Graham is a Lecturer in Physical Activity for Health at the University of Edinburgh. His main research interest is in the development and evaluation of interventions to increase physical activity and reduce sedentary behaviour. He has a particular interest in active transport working on various projects including an NIHR PHR funded evaluation of implementing 20mph speed limits in Edinburgh, and using Census data to examine the health and economic benefits of active commuting in Scotland.


Dr Claire Fitzsimons

Claire is a Lecturer in Physical Activity for Health in PAHRC at the University of Edinburgh. Her research interests are around the topic of sedentary behaviours, specifically focusing on older adult populations or stroke survivors and more recently exploring sedentary behaviours in employees working from home. She is currently collaborating with colleagues on a number of research projects on these topics, including a large programme grant to reduce and break up sedentary time after stroke. Claire was an expert contributor to the update of the UK physical activity guidelines in relation to sedentary behaviour published in 2019.


John Howie

John is a national organisational lead in health improvement with over 20 year’s public health experience.  He is currently responsible for leading Public Health Scotland’s place making and place standard portfolios with roles extending to chair of a WHO European Healthy Cities Working Group for Place, Health, Inequalities & Well-being and lead for Public Health Scotland’s application to host a new WHO Collaborating Centre for Place. 


Flora JacksonFlora Jackson

Flora is currently the Health Improvement Manager for Physical Activity at Public Health Scotland. She has extensive experience in physical activity and public health and has worked nationally on this agenda for the past 16 years, initially with NHS Health Scotland prior to the formation of Public Health Scotland in 2020.

In her national role, Flora endeavours to influence the integration of physical activity into and across policy and practice. She has led a number of national physical activity developments including the establishment of the Scottish Physical Activity and Health Alliance (PAHA) and also led the development of the NHS National Physical Activity Pathway. In partnership with CoSLA and sportscotland, Flora recently co-authored a cross policy advocacy paper presenting the Positive Contribution of Physical Activity and Sport to Scotland.

Flora is an non-executive Director of the Board of the Scottish Sports Association, a member of the CIMSPA Professional Development Board for Scotland and a member of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 sub-panel 24 (Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism).

Dr Xanne Janssen

Xanne Janssen is Senior Lecturer in Physical Activity for Health at the University of Strathclyde. She has a broad background in physical activity and sedentary behaviour research and has worked on several national and international projects, including a large study focused on physical activity and sedentary behaviour during the COVID-19 lockdown in Scotland. She was part of the UK and Canadian team developing guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behaviour for the early years.


Dr Paul Kelly

I am a Reader in Physical Activity for Health at the University of Edinburgh, where I have been based since August 2014. I work in the Physical Activity for Health Research Centre (PAHRC) led by Prof Nanette Mutrie MBE. My primary research interests include the measurement of physical activity, the evaluation of walking and cycling interventions, and communication and messaging. I am a Director at Paths for All, a Scottish charity that aims to support more people to walk more https://www.pathsforall.org.uk/ Feel free to contact me on Twitter https://twitter.com/narrowboat_paul


Dawn McAuley

Dawn is currently a Lead Manager at sportscotland. She joined the organisation in 2004, prior to which she worked in exercise referral and sports development roles with Glasgow City Council.  Over the past 16 years she has developed partnerships with Local Authorities, led and managed Active Schools and the delivery of PE targets alongside Education Scotland. She currently leads on sportscotland’s Local Authority partnerships and investment and sportscotland’s partnership with Public Health Scotland.


Helen Morrison

Helen Morrison is a Senior Development Officer, within the Walking for Health Team at Paths for All, Scotland’s National Walking Charity. Helen and her team manage the Scottish Health Walk Network whose 300+ members deliver over 650 health walks weekly. During her career within greenspace, communities and health, Helen was instrumental in establishing the Bristol city-wide Walking for Health scheme, was the Chief Executive of Volunteer Centre Bath & North East Somerset and Forth Environment Link. Helen enjoys her local town via volunteering with Burgh Beautiful, the rugby club and being active via walking with family and friends and other pursuits.


Dr Sarah Morton

Dr Sarah Morton is a Senior Research Fellow at the Physical Activity for Health Research Centre, University of Edinburgh. She is a design engineer and ethnographer, and is interested in using participatory, shared-decision making and co-design approaches to address critical health issues across a broad range of contexts with clinical and non-clinical populations. Recent projects focus on sedentary behaviour, public health, behaviour change, physical activity for health, healthy aging, and intervention development.


Professor Nanette Mutrie

Nanette Mutrie has been Chair of Physical Activity for Health at the University of Edinburgh since July 2012. She directs the Physical Activity for Health Research Centre (PAHRC) in the Institute for Sport, Physical Education and Health Sciences. She is also a visiting Professor at the MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit at the University of Glasgow and at the University of Ulster. In January 2015 Nanette was awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours list for services to physical activity for health in Scotland.

Nanette is a Chartered Psychologist with the British Psychological Society and a Fellow of the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences. She has extensive experience of conducting interventions aimed at increasing physical activity. With her students and colleagues she has more than 200 peer reviewed publications in this area. The third edition of a text book, first co-authored with Stuart Biddle in 1991, was published by Routledge in January 2015 (Biddle, Mutrie, Gorely ‘Psychology of physical activity: determinants, well-being, and interventions’).

Her inaugural lecture entitled, ‘Encouraging people to sit less and walk more’, was given at the University in December 2013 and can be viewed below. A Beltane Fellowship during 2013 allowed her to work in the Scottish Parliament Building encouraging people there to ‘sit less and walk more’.

She has also contributed to policy, for example, ‘let’s make Scotland more active’ and the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) programmes on physical activity and the environment and the promotion of walking and cycling. She is currently a member of the National Strategic Oversight Group for Physical Activity in Scotland.

Current collaborative projects include ‘EuroFIT’, ‘RuFIT’,‘Secure FIT, FFIT follow-up (all delivering a successful lifestyle and weight management programme to sports fans in different locations) ‘walkwell’ (walking programmes for people with learning disabilities), ‘actwell’ (lifestyle counselling for women attending breast cancer screening), ‘USP’ (examining sedentary behaviour patterns in older adults), M74 (an investigation of the impact of a new motorway on travel patterns) and eCoacher (web enhanced delivery of exercise referral schemes). She gets her own exercise by commuter cycling, dog walking and playing golf (badly so a lot more walking involved!).


Dr Ailsa Niven

Ailsa is a Senior Lecturer in Physical Activity for Health in PAHRC at the University of Edinburgh.   Ailsa is a professionally qualified sport and exercise psychologist, and her research and teaching focuses on understanding the psychological determinants and consequences of physical activity.  Currently, Ailsa is leading an MRC funded project focusing on understanding more about sedentary behaviour in the work at home environment, in order to inform future interventions.  Ailsa enjoys keeping active through walking, running, spinning, and keeping up with two lively daughters. 


Dr Gregor Smith

Dr Gregor Smith is proud to be a GP and was appointed Chief Medical Officer for Scotland in 2020. Prior to this he combined roles as a Senior Medical Officer in the Scottish Government and medical director for Primary Care in NHS Lanarkshire where he spent most of his clinical career as a GP in Larkhall. He is an Honorary Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Glasgow and Fellow of both the Scottish Patient Safety Programme and Salzburg Global.

Gregor is passionate about continuous quality improvement and innovation in healthcare, with a particular interest in person-centred care, shared decision making and working in teams. He is a resolute advocate of the values that define our NHS, of universal healthcare, and of widening access to medical careers to those from all backgrounds.


Maree Todd MSP

Maree Todd was appointed Minister for Public Health, Women’s Health and Sport in May 2021.
Maree Todd grew up in the West Highlands, attending Ullapool High School and then studying pharmacy and prescribing at Robert Gordon’s and Strathclyde, as well as taking an ante-natal teaching diploma at the University of Bedfordshire.

A pharmacist by profession, Todd worked in NHS Highland for 20 years, mainly as a mental health pharmacist in a psychiatric hospital. She also contributed to SIGN guidance on perinatal mental health.

She was previously the Minister for Children and Young People.


Dr Simone Tomaz

Simone Tomaz is a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Stirling and graduate school teaching associate at the University of Glasgow. Simone’s primary area of research is physical activity in children, and more recently in older people. She is currently working on the GOALD (Generating Older Active Lives Digitally) project, which is an intergenerational project exploring methods and programmes with the intention of increasing physical activity in older people. Additionally, Simone is one of the co-editors of the International Society of Physical Activity and Health (ISPAH) monthly newsletter and is a member of the team compiling the Scotland Healthy Active Kids Report Card.


Professor Anna C. Whittaker

Anna Whittaker is a Professor in Behavioural Medicine, a Health Psychologist, and Fellow of the British Psychological Society working at the University of Stirling in the areas of Psychoneuroimmunology, Cardiovascular Psychophysiology, and Behavioural Medicine. She is particularly interested in the impact of stress and other behavioural factors on health via interactions between the cardiovascular, neuroendocrine and immune systems. Her main areas of research are: Ageing, stress, physical activity, nutrition and effects on health and wellbeing.

She recently led a European Commission Horizon 2020 Marie Curie Innovative Training Network on Physical Activity and Nutrition INfluences In ageing (PANINI) and a CSO-funded Covid19 project on physical and social activity in ageing during Covid19. Her current main grant is UKRI-funded exploring how physical activity through digital technology can enhance social connectedness.

She has won several international research awards and has >200 peer-reviewed publications and a strong public engagement profile, particularly in the areas of ageing and stress, and is expanding this to include physical activity in ageing.