Dr Qian (Sarah) Gong

Sarah Gong image

Associate Professor in Media and Communication

Contact details

Room 2.01, Bankfield House, 132 New Walk

Tel: 0116 252 5293

Email: qg8@leicester.ac.uk

Academic biography

  • PhD in Communications Studies, University of Leeds
  • MA in Communications Studies, University of Leeds
  • BA in English Language, Nanhua University
  • PG Certificate in Academic Practice in Higher Education, University of Leicester
  • Good Clinical Practice (GCP) Certificate, University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust

I joined the University of Leicester as a lecturer in 2012. Prior to my appointment at Leicester I was a teaching associate at the Department of Culture, Film and Media at the University of Nottingham (2011-2012). Before that I was a research associate at the University of Sheffield (2009-2011), leading a work package of a European Research Council funded project ‘Consumer Culture in an Age of Anxiety’. From 2007 to 2009 I was a research assistant at the School of Media and Communication at the University of Leeds on a British Academy project ‘Political Communication in New Democracies’. I also worked in academia and media industry in China. I was a lecturer at Sichuan Normal University (2002-2003) and a part-time TV journalist/presenter at Hengyang TV station (2000-2002).

Professional service

  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA), UK
  • Editorial board member of academic journal: Interactions: Studies in Communication and Culture
  • Member of the International Association of Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) and European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA)
  • Reviewer of international leading journals: New Media and Society, Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature and Culture, International Journal of Media and Cultural Politics, Television and New Media, Communication, Politics & Culture, Geoforum, and Journal of Current Chinese Affairs
  • Research Fellow at the Institute of Health and Environmental Communication, Academy of Media and Public Affairs, Communication University of China, China.

School responsibility


I convene:

  • MS7002 Mass Communication Theory (semester 1)
  • MS7080 Advanced Topics in Advertising (semester 2)
  • MS7021 Health Communication in a Global Context (semester 2, not running 2020-2021)

Office hours

By appointment


My current research interest lies in the area of health communication. My recent projects investigated media (including health apps) representation of risk and uncertainty, lay and professional perceptions of genetic risks in relation to vaping and smoking cessation, and (e)health literacy of Chinese migrant women in the NHS maternity care. My past research investigated parenting culture, consumer culture and advertising within the wider context of ‘risk society’, and political communication in the areas of political journalism, citizen journalism and media and democracy in China, Taiwan and South Korea.

Current project

1. ‘Producing and launching a short health information film for Chinese maternity care users, NHS maternity service and Chinese community organisations’ 2019-2021 (PI) funded by ESRC Impact Acceleration Rapid Response scheme and College Research Development Fund

The project aims to create knowledge and engender behavioural changes for Chinese maternity service users and midwives. It proposes to co-produce a short health information film with Central Manchester Foundation Trust and Leeds Teaching Hospital Trust for pregnant Chinese women, the NHS Trusts and Chinese community organisations, with a primary goal to help the women improve their knowledge and understanding of the NHS maternity care (information and processes), and potentially improve their care experience and health outcomes. Secondly, the footage of the film will be used as training materials to improve the knowledge of midwives’ and community organisation case workers’ in order for them to provide more culturally sensitive care/service. Thirdly, the film launch event will engage directly with the Chinese community to collect impact evidence. The event also aims to build further impact partnerships with NHS Trusts and Chinese community organisations from large cities in England.

2. Co-designing Community-based ICTs Interventions to Enhance Maternal and Child Health in South Africa”. Partners: 2019-2021 (PI Nervo Verdezoto Cardiff University), funded by EPSRC/GCRF Digital Innovation Call (DIDA).

Digital intervention to support maternal and child health (MCH) are widespread. Yet the impact of these interventions in low-income communities is limited. This project aims to a)develop and consolidate a cross-disciplinary network to explore, co-design, share, inspire and develop new innovative ways to address MCH challenges through digital health, b)identify and engage with key stakeholders (professionals, policy, community and industry) through a co-design inquiry approach to obtain in-depth understanding of the complex social, structural and economic factors that can strengthen or weak MCH digital intervention, and c) explore, create and test a set of creative and alternative scenarios of emerging digital health tools and services to foster discussions between the network and the identified community stakeholders.

3. Evaluating the impact of e-cigarette product labelling and warnings across different ages, ethnicities and genders 2019-2021 (PI Jason Hughes) Funded by ESRC IAA rapid response scheme

Drawing upon existing research findings from a Cancer Research UK funded project entitled ‘Adolescent Vaping Careers’  this impact development project engages with a range of key stakeholders and policymakers (Cancer Research UK, ASH Wales, ASH England, the Advertising Standards Agency, the New Nicotine Alliance, Public Health England, etc.) to explore what kind of messaging around the use of e-cigarettes would be most effective in engaging tobacco smokers and deterring young non-smokers. The study will consider both on-packet and wider public health message content. The proposed impact development project will expand on the initial supporting activity by trialling a range of messages on e-cigarette products with different stakeholder groups within group interviews.

4. Establishing contact with new impact partners and coordinating video (knowledge creation/training) production with established partners (PI) 2019 CSSAH Research Impact and Knowledge Exchange (RIKE) Fund

This impact project draws on findings from a Wellcome Trust funded study ‘Health communication for pregnant Chinese women in Northern England - an explorative qualitative study’ to develop impact partners - NHS Trusts, a Chinese community charitable organisation Wai Yin Society, Royal Midwife College and Translation Services. The project aims to coordinate the production of a short health education/information video for Chinese maternity service users and health professionals.

Past research project

Red flags and symptom checkers for self-diagnosis in maternity 2019-2020 (PI Nicola Mackintosh) funded by Stillbirth & Neonatal Death Charity (Sands)

This project investigates the role of online symptom checkers in prompting pregnant women to seek and get help early for potentially serious signs of complications such as altered baby movements and bleeding. The research team consists of a group of clinical and social scientists with expertise in researching women’s experiences of pregnancy complications, the role of digital communication, and system level management of over and under diagnosis. The project involves three work packages and is based in two NHS Trusts (a large urban and a smaller rural site): 1. survey research with pregnant women and midwives; 2. observations of clinical consultations and interviews with women and health professionals; 3. textual and visual analysis of the symptom checkers, particularly in relation to presentation of risk, self-care and help seeking advice. This study addresses the gap in our understanding about how digital resources ‘work’ alongside the provision of professional maternity care. Research findings will be used to provide guidance for women, parent organisations, healthcare staff and policy makers on the design and use of these resources to enable early detection and treatment of perinatal complications.

Health communication for pregnant Chinese women in Northern England - an explorative qualitative study (2017-2018) Funded by Wellcome Trust (202709/Z/16/Z) Principal investigator

This explorative study (with co-investigator Dr. Kuldip Bharj) intends to make a contribution to the research of the health communication aspect of the maternity care in England. It focuses on pregnant Chinese migrant women, an ethnic minority group which has been so far insufficiently studied in the health research literature. This study explores Chinese migrant women’s own accounts of their experiences of maternity care during their pregnancy, focusing particularly on how health information is communicated to them through in-person and (media) mediated channels.

The study also investigates midwives’ experiences of providing health advice to Chinese migrant women as part of the maternity care. The study analyses the processes and outcomes of the health communication, and explores whether and how the provision of health-related information helps these women making informed choices in their personalised maternity care. This in-depth qualitative study is based on semi-structured interviews with women and midwives, as well as participant observations of women’s midwife appointments in Leeds and Manchester where both cities have large Chinese communities.

'DEPAC’: Digital enablement, promise and uncertainty in maternity care (2017-2018) - Funded by the University Tiger Teams grant. Co-Investigator (PI Nicola Mackintosh, CI Nervo Verdezoto)

The team critically engages with and provides new interdisciplinary scholarly insights into the mediation of digitised diagnosis in maternity care. It will examine how these technologies shape women’s experiences of pregnancy and potentially contribute to new ways of engaging with healthcare. This will reveal vital insights for current management of serious complications in maternity and for understanding relationships between risk and uncertainty, society and digital technologies.

Digitising Reproduction: new technologies, intersectionality and the politics of inclusion - Research Development Grand funded by the Foundation for the Sociology of Health & Illness.  Co-Investigator (PI Nicola Mackintosh, CIs: Nicky Hudson; Tania Mcintosh; Jane Sandall and Nervo Verdezoto)

Communicating smoking-related health risks – a scoping study of professional and lay understandings in China Principal Investigator 2017 Funded by College of Social Sciences Development Fund, Principal Investigator (CIs Jason Hughes, Martin Tobin, Louise Wain)

Tobacco smoking is one of the foremost public health problems in China. With more than 300 million smokers, the annual number of deaths from smoking is projected to rise from 1 million in 2010, to 2 million in 2030 and 3 million in 2050. Despite the dire projections, Chinese smokers’ motivation to quit is low: only 16.1 per cent of Chinese smokers plan to quit and less than 10 per cent succeed in doing so long-term (WHO, 2010).

Chinese smokers’ relative lack of motivation to quit has been linked to a number of socio-cultural, economic and political factors. While there are some survey-based studies of their basic knowledge of the hazards of smoking, there is a lack of in-depth investigation of smokers’ understanding of health risks associated with smoking within this context. Such an undertaking is particularly important because public health discourse has become increasingly risk-centric in China. It is hoped that health risks, when effectively communicated, can engender attitudinal and behavioural change.

However, (health) risks are complex, and experts and the public often take different approaches (objective, rational, analytical vs. subjective, emotional, heuristic) towards risk, sometimes causing a gap between expert knowledge and lay understanding. In the meantime, a major discovery has been made in medical research concerning how individuals’ genetic make-up can predict the risk of serious lung diseases as well as underpin the development of genetically-informed preventive drugs for smoking cessation.

In order to understand whether and how new knowledge in the field of human genetics can help improve the health prospects of Chinese smokers (either through raising public awareness and ultimately motivating smokers to quit, or switching to other less harmful sources of nicotine), this study investigates the communication of smoking-related health risks (both general, and genetically specific) in China with a focus upon the interaction between professional and user understandings of risk.

Parental anxieties about children's healthcare and media engagement in China (2014-15)
Funded by College of Social Sciences Development Fund, University of Leicester  
See related book and article

Consumer Culture in an Age of Anxiety' - Consumer perceptions of food safety in China (2009-2011) Funded by the European Research Council (REC) Principal Investigator Prof. Peter Jackson. See related article on parental practices, article on infant formula advertising and article on news geopolitical representation of global food crisis.

Political Communication in New Democracies: Government-Media Relationships in Transition (2007-2009) Funded by the British Academy, Principal Investigator Prof. Katrin Voltmer. See related article on Taiwan and article on South Korea.

Recent research grant

2019-21: “Co-designing Community-based ICTs Interventions to Enhance Maternal and Child Health in South Africa”. Partners: Cardiff University (PI Nervo Verdezoto Cardiff University), funded by EPSRC/GCRF Digital Innovation Call (DIDA).
2019-21:   ESRC Rapid Response Scheme and College Research Development fund £11,438.20
2019-21:   ESRC Rapid Response Scheme and Cardiff university research fund (PI Jason Hughes) £18,796.70
2019-20:   Stillbirth & Neonatal Death Charity (Sands) (PI Nicola Mackintosh) £62,838.08
2019:        CSSAH Research Impact and Knowledge Exchange (RIKE) Fund £936
2018:        'Reproductive Digital Health' funded by the Foundation for the Sociology of Health and Illnesses (PI Nicola                Mackintosh) £5,952
2017:        Digital enablement, promise and uncertainty in maternity care, University of Leicester IAS Tiger Team Award, (PI Nicola Mackintosh; CIs Sarah Gong, Nervo Verdezoto) £5,000
2017:        Research Development Fund, the CSSAH and School of Media, Communication and Sociology £3,822
2017-18:   Wellcome Trust Society & Ethics Small Grant £4,980
2014-15:   Research Development Fund, the CSSAH and School of Media, Communication and Sociology £3,582


click here


I welcome PhD proposals in various areas of health communication including but not limited to: digital health, crisis communication, risk communication, patient-physician relationship, (e)health literacy, migrant health.

PhD and MPhil students:


  • Cui Wei (PhD), Crisis Communication in China: Strategies taken by the Chinese Government and Online Public Opinion: A Study of the H7N9 Crisis. 1st supervisor. 2020
  • Lei Tong, Depression detection via Twitter Data (MPhil), 2nd supervisor. 2020


  • Nuhsodah Wanapia, The Media and Policy Decision Making in Nigeria. 1st supervisor
  • Gao ZhenghanCitizen journalism and the crisis of doctor-patient relationship in China. 1st supervisor
  • He Tianshi, Communicating Corporate Responsibility: A case study of a Chinese multinational enterprise (Huawei) 2nd supervisor
  • Elinor Jones (EPSRC PhD Studentship), Effective detection of anxiety among adolescents, 3rd supervisor
  • Jiang Yu, COVID-19 Crisis on Weibo, 1st supervisor
  • Wang, Dian, Environmental imagery and imagined city: Representation and production of the environment in city image advertising in China, 2nd supervisor

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Contact Details

School of Media, Communication and Sociology

Campus based courses
E: mcs-enquiries@le.ac.uk
T: +44(0)116 252 3863

Distance Learning Courses
E: css-dl@le.ac.uk
T: 0116 252 3755

Research degrees (campus-based and distance learning courses)
T: +44(0)116 252 2785
E: MCS-Research@le.ac.uk

University of Leicester
Bankfield House
132 New Walk
United Kingdom

University of Leicester
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