Dr Qian (Sarah) Gong

Sarah Gong image

Associate Professor in Media and Communication

Contact details

Room 2.02, Astley Clarke Building, University of Leicester, Leicester, LE1 7RH

Tel: 0116 252 5293

Email: qg8@leicester.ac.uk

Academic biography

  • PhD in Communications Studies, University of Leeds
  • 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 (FHEA), 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)

Office hours

By appointment


My current research interest is in 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. Maximising research impact for a study on COVID-19 vaccine uptake within Chinese communities in the UK, (PI) 2021-2023 funded by ESRC Impact Acceleration Rapid Response scheme. Co-I: Ian Somerville, Huiyu Zhou

This project aims to develop and maximise research impact of an AHRC funded rapid response project (project 2 below) on COVID-19 vaccine uptake intervention within Chinese communities. The overarching aim is to promote the intervention (films, radio jingles, leaflet and app) produced by the above AHRC project by: 1) engaging with health organisations (e.g. Public Health England) and professionals (e.g. GPs and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners); 2) promoting the intervention at Chinese community hubs (Chinese supermarkets and hair salons); 3) promoting the intervention on social media platforms (e.g. TikTok, Twitter), and; 4) creating a project website.

2. Co-design and implement a COVID-19 vaccine uptake intervention within Chinese communities in England, (PI) funded 2021 by AHRC/UKRI (AH/W003643/1) Co-I: Ian Somerville, Huiyu Zhou

This study addresses the call of the UK Government Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) (2020a) by investigating complex and multi-layered factors and determinants of Chinese communities’ vaccine hesitancy, as well as the barriers and facilitators of vaccination uptake. The central aim of the study is to use empirical data to inform the co-design/development and implementation/evaluation of a communicative intervention to promote the uptake of COVID-19 vaccines with the Chinese communities.

3. An exploratory study of factors and determinants of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy for developing a conceptual framework to inform the design of communicative intervention/s in Ghana, India and South Africa 2021, funded by International Research Development Fund ODA/GCRF

This project will be conducted by a team of cross-disciplinary and cross-geographical researchers with expertise in communication studies, community-based research, public health, psychology, development, design, and human-computer interaction. The project will investigate complex, context-dependent, multi-layered factors and determinants of people’s vaccine hesitancy as well as facilitators or promoter of vaccination programme across three L/UMIC countries including Ghana, India, and South Africa. The project aims to co-develop a conceptual framework for designing communicative intervention/s to address the hesitancy and identify pathways of impact through community stakeholder workshops. Our research partners include:

  • Dr Naveen Bagalkot, Movement for Alternatives and Youth Awareness (MAYA), Bangalore, India
  • Dr Melissa Densmore, Department of Computer Science, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
  • Dr Zaynab Essack, Centre of Community-Based Research, Human and Social Capabilities Division, Human Science Research Council, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
  • Dr Nervo Verdezoto, School of Computer Science and Informatics, University of Cardiff, UK
  • Project advisor, Dr. Yaseen Joolay
  • Research assistant Dr Lidia Salvatori, University of Leicester, UK

4. ‘Producing and launching a short health information film for Chinese maternity care users, NHS maternity service and Chinese community organisations’ 2019-2021 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.

5. Developing a training toolkit for language translation companies working with the NHS maternity service 2021 (PI) funded by ESRC Accelerating Business Collaborations/Early Career Researcher Fund (CIs Prof. Huiyu Zhou, Partners: Da Languages, NHS Manchester Central Foundation Trust, Leeds Teaching Hospital Trust, Wai Yin Society)

The project will provide opportunities for two early career researchers (ECRs) to engage substantially with language translation and interpretation companies, the NHS and third sector organisations to develop a training toolkit based on the PI's previous Wellcome Trust study.


  • Zhenghan Gao, PhD student, School of Media, Communication and Sociology
  • Jialin Lyu, PMhil Student, Department of Informatics

6. Co-designing Community-based ICTs Interventions to Enhance Maternal and Child Health in South Africa”. Partners: 2019-2021 (PIs Melissa Densmore, Nervo Verdezoto), 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.

Past research project

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.

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.

Establishing contact with new impact partners and coordinating video (knowledge creation/training) production with established partners 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.

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

This explorative study 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, Co-I 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, Co-Is: 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 (Co-Is 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). 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

2021-23:   ESRC IAA Large Rapid Response Fund, £9,983.12. PI
2021:        AHRC/UKRI COVID-19 Emergency Route (AH/W003643/1), £80,598. PI
2021:        International Research Development Fund (IRDF) ODA/GCRF, £13,486.00. PI
2021:        ESRC Accelerating Business Collaborations/Early Career Researcher Fund, £7,958.00. PI
2019-21:   EPSRC/GCRF Digital Innovation Call,(PIs Melissa Densmore, Nervo Verdezoto),  £129,696. Co-I
2019-21:   ESRC Rapid Response Scheme and College Research Development fund £11,438.20. PI
2019-21:   ESRC Rapid Response Scheme and Cardiff university research fund (PI Jason Hughes) £18,796.70. Co-I
2019-20:   Stillbirth & Neonatal Death Charity (Sands) (PI Nicola Mackintosh) £62,838.08. Co-I
2019:        CSSAH Research Impact and Knowledge Exchange (RIKE) Fund £936. PI
2017-18:   Wellcome Trust Society & Ethics Small Grant £4,980. PI
2018:        'Reproductive Digital Health' funded by the Foundation for the Sociology of Health and Illnesses (PI Nicola                                             Mackintosh) £5,952. Co-I
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. Co-I
2017:        Research Development Fund, the CSSAH and School of Media, Communication and Sociology £3,822. PI


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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
  • Gao Zhenghan, Reporting doctor-patient relationship issues in China: media representation, public perception, and reporter engagement, 1st supervision 2021
  • Nuhsodah Wanapia, The Media and Policy Decision Making in Nigeria. 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
  • Saud Shbeer, The role of the media in managing a public health crisis: A comparative study on the COVID-19 media response in Saudi Arabia and the UK, 1st supervision

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School of Media, Communication and Sociology

Campus based courses
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T: +44(0)116 252 3863

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Research degrees (campus-based and distance learning courses)
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