Hannah Francesca Pheasant Oldfield was born on the 2 March 1982, the youngest child of David Pheasant and Vivian Pheasant. She died on the 9 December 2022 at just 40 years old after an heroic 6 year struggle with a rare form of bowel cancer.
Hannah’s journey into nutrition, dietetics and public health began in childhood. Raised in a family passionate about good food and sport, Hannah was a talented lacrosse and squash player at Queen Anne’s School in Caversham gaining school colours for the latter and playing in the county team that won the regional championship for the former. She was also a gifted horsewoman but, as a young child, she had to manage acute asthma and various food allergies and intolerances. Thankfully these cleared up in her teenage years and her asthma became very well controlled, but such early experiences with ill health combined with her love of food and physical activity ignited her interest in the complex relationships between food, health and the environment.
Hannah followed her brother James to Kings College London where she did a BSC in nutrition. After two years working as a public health project officer at the North Central London Strategic Health Authority, she went on to do an MSC in public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Hannah flourished both academically and socially at LSHTM where she made many lasting friendships. After LSHTM she worked across London for various NHS trusts in obesity focused leadership roles, began her own very successful consultancy service, Hannah Pheasant Limited, and started her many collaborations with the Public Health Action Support Team (PHAST) founded by her dear friend and great mentor, Catherine Brogan.
One particularly notable project undertaken with PHAST was HealthKnowledge, a widely used web resource that assists many public health students, practitioners and consultants in the UK and globally to keep up to date with public health knowledge and practice. Hannah was instrumental in the design and publication of the site, and she oversaw the content and the running of the website for more than a decade as well as answering queries from students for many years. She also contributed a number of chapters in the public health textbook (2a and 2e) on epidemiology and health and social behaviour. One of her final professional efforts in 2022 was to help oversee the handover of HealthKnowlegde from PHAST to the Faculty of Public Health in order to secure its ongoing legacy.
Another notable and very visible project with PHAST was Hannah’s work developing the pioneering London regional obesity care pathway support package commissioned by the Regional Public Health Group. Hannah was the lead author and drew on her considerable knowledge of designing obesity care pathways for many NHS trusts in London. The support package was considered to be exemplary and of a high standard and was widely used not only in London but across the UK.
Hannah had a big heart and loved to help people and, after nearly a decade designing, commissioning and running obesity services, she felt a strong draw to work with patients too. With this in mind, she returned to Kings College London and did a PG Dip in dietetics. Afterwards, she honed her skills as a chronic disease dietitian for Central London Community Healthcare Trust (where her clinics were always full and she was famously bad at discharging her patients!) before becoming the lead dietitian for adult specialist weight management services at Homerton University Hospital Foundation Trust.
When the cancer struck in 2017 at the age of just 35, the diagnosis was very late at stage 4 and 5 year survival rates for her prognosis were ~5%. But Hannah remained indefatigably positive and was determined to live. Somehow, over the next 5 and a half years, she endured 100 cycles of chemotherapy, 2 bouts of radiotherapy and 1 bout of proton beam therapy, liver ablations, 2 major surgeries and countless hospital admissions for minor or severe symptom management. She travelled to Germany 20 times between 2021 and 2022 to receive an experimental peptide vaccine; more than half of those trips were incredibly brave solo efforts. Even in the face of that immense mountain of suffering, Hannah did not give up work. She reduced her output and stopped her employed roles within the NHS, but through Hannah Pheasant Limited and PHAST she led on two high profile, multi year public health projects, one a mapping exercise on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease commissioned by Gilead and another a needs assessment on domestic abuse for Oxfordshire. Such was her dedication, professionalism and courage, during the Gilead project, Hannah spent 3 months as an inpatient at the Royal Marsden Hospital fighting for her life and, to the amazement of the doctors, nurses and other patients, insisted on taking day leave to attend stakeholder meetings!
During this last chapter in her life, Hannah realised her dream of working privately with patients and launched her own dietetic practice, Dishy Dietetics. Through DD she became particularly interested in plant based eating and the emerging field of nutritional genomics and its potential to help people make healthier choices informed by their own genetic profile. She helped many patients and, incredibly, was still advising some of them in the final weeks of her life at Royal Trinity Hospice (only discharging them when illness made responding to emails too difficult).
Hannah was an extremely bright, courageous and determined person who gave much of her adult life to the field of obesity reduction. She was kind, generous and loyal and her beautiful smile could light up a room. Her energy, positivity and leadership made her the fulcrum around which successful teams and projects were built. She asked a lot of herself - and of her colleagues - but people wanted to work with her because Hannah pulled things together and made them better than they would have been otherwise.
At home, Hannah formed a deeply loving and enduring partnership with her husband Alex. Their ten year marriage became a source of great strength, stability and happiness to them both, especially during the cancer years. Hannah’s great passions through her adult life were good food and wine, cycling, travelling, walking and horses. She was also legendary company on a night out; many family members, friends and colleagues would testify to her infectious laughter, mischievous good humour and incredible stamina!
She is survived by her beloved husband, Alex, her parents David and Vivian, her siblings James and Charlotte as well as her nieces and nephews Ella, Harry, Bella, Millie and Charlie.