Expert in public health who helped shape the NHS in Scotland

Born: March 1, 1935;

Died: January 13, 2018

DR FRANCIS Andrew Boddy, who has died aged 82, was a major figure in the development of public health research and practice and was in the forefront of the planning of many of the changes which have taken place in the National Health Service in Scotland over the last four decades.

He was born in York in 1935 to William Boddy and his wife Janet (nee Noble), who were both school teachers. He grew up in Yorkshire, attending Prince Henry’s Grammar School in Otley and winning a bursary to attend university. He studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, where he also edited Synapse, the Medical School Student Journal.

He qualified in 1959 and, after house officer posts, he specialised in epidemiology and worked as a lecturer in the department of social medicine and public health in Edinburgh, before moving to New York in 1963, where he joined the New York City Department of Health, conducting research on health services in East Harlem. It was there that he met Adele (Ada) Wirszubska and they married in Manhattan in 1965.

On their return to Scotland in 1965, Dr Boddy was appointed as a lecturer in the department of social medicine at the University of Aberdeen, and then in 1969 he joined the department of community medicine at the University of Glasgow as a senior lecturer. His 10 years at Glasgow included running courses for clinicians on the needs and challenges of health service management in the changing context of increased application of science, growing elderly populations and tightening budgetary imperatives. This work – like that in East Harlem – confirmed Dr Boddy’s understanding that an effective health service, with equity of provision, depends on serious knowledge of the populations that it serves.

In 1978, he became the founding director the Social Paediatric and Obstetric Research Unit at the University of Glasgow, later widening its remit to become the Public Health Research Unit, which he led until he retired in 1998.

He recognised that information routinely collected by the health services was very important when used to provide an insight into health needs. He worked with colleagues on innovative analysis of large-scale administrative data to analyse health inequalities, including a major study (published in 1995) that demonstrated the links between deprivation and mortality.

A close colleague recalls Dr Boddy’s commentary on the research being repeated almost hourly on television - "is this the sort of society we want to live in?" – an observation that was typical of his commitment to the role of health services in ensuring social justice for the most vulnerable in our society.

In the international sphere Dr Boddy’s work often took him abroad, for example to Italy, Colombia, Turkey and South Africa, as well as Copenhagen where he worked with the World Health Organisation on primary health care. Nearer to home, he was involved with research in many fields including multi-disciplinary studies into HIV infection in Glasgow.

From 1982 until 1987 he was honorary secretary of the Society for Social Medicine and its chairman in 1996. He was also the convener of the Scottish Affairs Committee, Faculty of Public Health Medicine from 1991 to 94. In 1976 he was elected a Fellow of the Faculty of Public Heath Medicine and in 1981 became Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.

Dr Boddy was a great man for creating a happy and productive working environment, and was especially supportive of the careers of younger colleagues. He was always generous in his opinions, firm though they were, and was enviably well read on many topics. Kind and hospitable, he delighted in welcoming friends to his home, where a glass of prosecco was usually the accompaniment to cheerful and informative conversation.

In Yorkshire and Scotland – where he spent happy summers as a boy – he developed a lifelong love of fly-fishing, and he was also a keen photographer, always fascinated by the history and culture of the places he visited.

He is survived by Ada and their two daughters, Kasia and Janet. He was justly proud of his daughters’ achievements and delighted in the company of his two grandchildren, Gabriel and Oscar. All in all, he was one of the few of whom it can be said, in Shakespeare’s words, ‘of whose true-fixed and resting quality there is no fellow’.