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Personal profile


Leandro Garcia is Lecturer of Complexity Science in Public Health at the Centre for Public Health. He is an expert in the application of complex systems science in public health, and in the intersection between physical activity behaviour and health. His research combines epidemiological and complex systems approaches and methods to investigate the links between behavioural, environmental, social, and policy determinants of population health.

He co-leads the Complex Systems, Urban Environment and Population Health Group, which congregates staff members and students from the Centre for Public Health and beyond to develop and apply complex systems science and urban environment research methods and approaches to investigate and address population health issues.

Leandro holds a DSc from University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. He conducted postdoctoral research at the National School of Public Health, Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, Brazil, and MRC Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge.

He is a member of the Public Policy Working Group and of the Environment and Physical Activity Working Group from the Brazilian Society of Physical Activity and Health.

Leandro is the Early Career Researchers representative in the Centre for Public Health's Senior Management Team.

Research Interests

Leandro has two main research interests:

  • Development and application of complex systems science lens and methods to public health issues, including but not limited to health-related behaviour, upstream determinants of non-communicable diseases, urban health, and health inequalities.
  • Physical activity and population health, with particular interest in the dynamic interactions between the multiple determinants and consequences of physical activity behaviour, how these interactions shape population levels and inequalities in physical activity, and the resulting public health and societal impacts.

Currently, Leandro is Principal Investigator in two research projects:

  • A vision of healthy urban design for NCD prevention: in partnership with University of Melbourne and funded by UKRI and NHMRC, this 3-year project (2020 to 2023) aims to explore the relation between urban design, non-communicable diseases risk factors and outcomes, and health inequalities in cities across the UK and Australia. This project combines epidemiological, computer vision, artificial intelligence, and comparative risk assessment methods, and will develop a web-based, interactive toolkit for action to help inform future policies and lead to powerful, actionable changes in cities.
  • Developing system-oriented interventions to reduce car dependency for improved population health in Belfast: funded by MRC, this 18-month project (2020 to 2022) aims to co-develop sustainable and scalable systems-oriented interventions at the intersection of policy and environmental infrastructure and individual agency to reduce car dependency for improved population health in the Belfast City Region. This project is organised upon 3 pillars: 1) understanding the multiple layers that shape car dependency in Belfast; 2) synthesizing evidence and knowledge of what has worked in other cities; 3) developing a shared vision and co-ordinate innovative actions with stakeholders to reduce car use in Belfast.

Leandro is also Co-Investigator and Work Package Lead in other three research projects:

  • Community-engaged and data-informed systems transformation of urban green and blue space for Population Health (GroundsWell): this £7.1-million, 5-year UKPRP Consortium aims to drive community innovation applying complex systems science to maximise the contribution of green and blue spaces to the primary prevention of, and reduction of inequalities in, non-communicable diseases in urban settings. Leandro is involved in the co-development a systems-oriented framework of how urban green and blue spaces impacts non-communicable diseases and leads a Work Package that will develop agent-based models to simulate complex adaptive systems to explore how urban green and blue spaces transformations can reduce levels and inequalities in non-communicable diseases.
  • Supportive environments for physical and social activity, healthy ageing and cognitive health (SPACE): building on Northern Ireland Cohort for the Longitudinal Study of Ageing, this project investigates the impacts, and possible mechanistic pathways, of urban environments on healthy ageing and cognitive health. Leandro leads a Work Package that will enable researchers and multi-sector stakeholders to consider different perspectives and build a shared understanding of the complex system that connects urban environments and cognitive decline, aiding them to identify the pathways to promote cognitive health and reduce cognitive health inequalities.
  • Sao Paulo health survey - physical activity and environment: building on the 2015 wave of the Sao Paulo Health Survey, this population-based prospective cohort was designed to investigate the relationship between built environment, physical activity, and nutritional status in Brazilian adults. Leandro is leading a WP that will use agent-based modelling to estimate the behavioural and health impacts of potential changes in Sao Paulo built environment for increasing recreational physical activity and active travel levels.

Leandro has acted as expert advisor for various international and national organizations, including the Pan-American Health Organization, World Health Organization, United Nations Development Programme, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, Brazilian Ministry of Health, and Colombian Ministry of Health and Social Protection. Some of these works are:

  • Update of the guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behaviour, commissioned by the World Health Organization.
  • Development of the Brazilian guidelines for physical activity, commissioned by the Brazilian Ministry of Health.
  • Development of the Brazilian guidelines for physical activity and cancer prevention and control, commissioned by the Brazilian Society of Clinical Oncology and Brazilian Society of Physical Activity and Health.
  • Update of the Colombian guidelines for physical activity, commissioned by Pan-American Health Organization and Colombian Ministry of Health and Social Protection.
  • Health impacts of transportation choices and alternative scenarios in Accra, Ghana, commissioned by the World Health Organization.
  • Guidance on modelling methods and choice of data for modelling health impacts of walking and cycling policies and scenarios, commissioned by the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group.


Leandro contributes to the master courses offered by the Centre for Public Health and undergraduate courses from the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, delivering lectures and tutorials on population research, physical activity and public health, and complex systems science applied to health.

He currently supervises four PhD students:

  • Abdullah Alsarrani on the association between friendship network and mental well-being in adolescents.
  • Sophie Jones on the application of systems science to understand and optimise the impacts of physical activity promotion strategies.
  • Mariam Mansouri on the investigation of COVID-19 prevention and control from a system dynamics perspective (co-supervisor).
  • Claudia McIlroy on how public health policy can affect life expectancy inequalities in Northern Ireland (co-supervisor).

He also supervises master's and undergraduate dissertations.

Enquiries from prospective students are welcome in any of the research areas listed in the "Research Focus" section above.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Devlopment 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 1 - No Poverty
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities


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