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Dr Natalie Darko

Profile summary

  • Central Academic Staff
  • Lecturer in Sport and Fitness
  • Faculty of Wellbeing, Education & Language Studies
  • School of Education, Childhood, Youth and Sport
  • Childhood, Youth and Sport
  • natalie.darko

Professional biography

Dr Natalie Darko is Lecturer of Sports and Fitness within the Sport and Fitness team. She is HEA Fellow and previously completed her PhD and MPhil in Sport and Sociology at the University of Loughborough. Dr Darko joined the Open University in 2017 and prior to this, she was Senior Lecturer and Subject Programme Leader for Sports Education at Nottingham Trent University. She has extensive academic experience as she has worked as a Project Leader, Senior Lecturer and Research Associate and Consultant at other universities, including the University of Leicester, and Manchester Metropolitan University. Dr Darko also engages in various academic consultancy work with external partners both in the U.K and internationally.

Research interests

Dr Darko’s research concentrates on sport, physical activity, racial equality and health. She has completed various projects some of which include physical activity, sport and policy in the West Indies, the usefulness of coaching certification, the value of outdoor recreation, men’s Rugby Union and body concern, and the participation legacy of the 2012 Olympics. Her particular area of methods expertise is qualitative research, notably visual research methods and ethnography. Dr Darko has also led and evaluated health interventions, including a Type 2 Diabetes programme that sought to develop awareness and provision for under-represented groups and Black and Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) populations. She has provided advice and guidance on addressing and improving equality and diversity in sport and health organisations. Notably she has designed and delivered unconscious bias training for sports leaders, provided expert guidance and developed equality programmes for national governing sport organisations and clinical commissioning groups.

Dr Darko has extensive experience of supporting and in assisting with research delivery and evaluation within sport, physical activity and health. She has worked with various sport, health and medical organisations, including the NHS, Sport England, Health Education England, The International Olympic Committee, Leicester Diabetes Centre, Antigua and Barbuda Ministry, the East Midlands Centre for Black and Minority Ethnic Health, the Sport and Recreation Alliance, Genomics England, and the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine (Loughborough University). She welcomes consultancy and/or PhD applications within these fields. Details of some her recent projects are listed below:

  • UK Review of Sports Coaching Certification (2017- to date) Sport England, Manchester Metropolitan University and the Sport and Recreation Alliance.
  • BAME Recruitment (2017) Engaging BAME populations in Healthcare professions, Health Education England. East Midlands.
  • Radiate Project (2016-17) Raising Awareness and Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes amongst BAME populations, Uni. of Leicester, Centre of BME Health, Academic Health Sciences Network and National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine.
  • 100,000 Genomes Project – (2016) BAME engagement in recruitment (Prostate Cancer) General Medical Council, University of Leicester. & Health Education England.
  • Antigua and Barbuda Olympic Committee (2012) Policy, Participation, & Provision, Nottingham Trent University, A&B IOC, A&B Ministry of Sport
  • SPUR Research Project (2012) London 2012 Olympics: Lasting Sports Legacy, Nottingham Trent University.

Teaching interests

Dr Darko teaching at the Open University is located within Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS). She currently contributes to the following modules:

E113 Working and Learning in Sport and Fitness.

Impact and engagement


  • BBC Radio Leicester Sept – Dec 2016- Type 2 Diabetes in BME groups, Guest Speaker Dr Natalie Darko. 6 interviews (University of Leicester & Leicester Diabetes Centre).

  • BBC Radio Nottingham, July 2012 Olympics: Lasting Sport Legacy- Discussion of Research Project Guest Speakers Dr Natalie Darko and Miss H, Wilkins (Nottingham Trent University).

  • TALKSPORT, June 2009, Health and well-being of elite male rugby union players – pain and injury and the emotional distress following injury. Guest Speaker Natalie Darko- Senior Lecturer of Sport Sociology.

  • ABC TV – Antigua News- Sept 2012, TV Interview with Dr Darko, - National Policy Analysis- Implementation and Provision.

Conferences & Invited Speaker

  • Darko, N. (2017) Unconscious Bias and Diversity, Invited Speaker Panel Member, SRA Sport Summit 2017, Emirates Stadium, London- Invited Speaker

  • Darko, N. (2017) BAME Type 2 Diabetes and Physical Activity Intervention, Keynote Speaker, Meeting the physical activity needs of minority ethnic populations, NIHR CLAHRC Yorkshire and Humber and National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine, Groves End Sports Centre, NCSEM Sheffield. 7th March 2017- Invited Speaker.

  • Darko, N. (2016) ‘There are no parents in the stands’: Sport, Physical Education, Cultural value and Motivation in the Caribbean, a case study of Antigua and Barbuda. Physical Literacy: Gender and Sports Development Conference 2016. University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago

  • Mackintosh, C., and Darko, N., (2015) Unintended outcomes of the London 2012 Olympic Games: Local voices of resistance and the challenge for sport participation leverage in England, International Sociology of Sport Association (ISSA) Annual World Congress for the Sociology of Sport Conference, 9-12th June 2015.

  • Darko, N., and Mackintosh, C. (2014) Paper: Don’t you feel bad watching the Olympics watching us? The influence of the London 2012 Olympics on families in the East Midlands of England: a qualitative visual analysis. Poster: The Challenges and Constraints in developing and implementing sports policy and provision in Antigua and Barbuda: which way now for a small island. 4th International Conference in Sport and Exercise, Loughborough University, Loughborough.

  • Darko, N., and Mackintosh, C. (2014) Antigua and Barbuda National Sports and Recreation Policy 2011-2014: Analysis of policy and provision: PSA Sport, Politics and Policy Conference (2014) University of Bath.

  • Mackintosh, C., Darko, N., Rutherford, Z., and Wilkins, H. (2012) 2012 London Olympics: Examining the Lasting Sport Legacy- Research Project: The European Sports Development Network (ESDN) Third Symposium, September 2012, Sheffield Hallam University.

  • Darko, N (2011) ‘Get up, Shut up…’: Rugby Union Men and their Management of Pain and Injury, Invited Speaker by Professor Kenton Morgan, Professor of Epidemiology Liverpool University, The International Rugby Injuries Conference 6-7th October 2010– from Population to Player. Rygbi Gogledd Cymru, Wales

External collaborations

Resources (Consultancy)

  • Darko, N. and Baldry, E. (2017) African\African Caribbean Healthy Eating Guide – Reducing your risk of Type 2 Diabetes. Leicester NHS Dietician Services and Leicester Diabetes Centre.

  • Darko, N. and Baldry, E. (2017) South- Asian Healthy Eating Guide– Reducing your risk of Type 2 Diabetes. Leicester NHS Dietician Services and Leicester Diabetes Centre.

  • Darko, N. (2014-2016) Alternative Sport and Exercise Curriculum- 2Yr Module Content- Triple Skillz, Aim Awards.

Reviewer Roles

  • Journal Article Reviewer: Journal of Leisure Research, 2015- BME Health to date.

  • Journal Article Reviewer: International Journal of Sport and Society, 2011- 2013.

  • Journal Article Reviewer: International Journal of Men’s Health, 2009-2011.


  • International Olympic Commitee - Antigua and Barbuda- (2012-4)
  • Antigua and Barbuda Ministry of Youth and Sport - (2012-4)


'Don’t you feel bad watching the Olympics, watching us?' A qualitative analysis of London 2012 Olympics influence on family sports participation and physical activity (2016)
Darko, Natalie and Mackintosh, Chris
Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health, 8(1) (pp. 45-60)
Unintended outcomes of the London 2012 Olympic Games: local voices of resistance and the challenge for sport participation leverage in England (2016)
Mackintosh, Chris; Darko, Natalie and May-Wilkins, Hetty
Leisure Studies, 35(4) (pp. 454-469)
Challenges and constraints in developing and implementing sports policy and provision in Antigua and Barbuda: which way now for a small island state? (2015)
Darko, Natalie and Mackintosh, Christopher
International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, 7(3) (pp. 365-390)
A qualitative study of the impact of the London 2012 Olympics on families in the East Midlands of England: lessons for sports development policy and practice (2015)
Mackintosh, Chris; Darko, Natalie; Rutherford, Zoe and Wilkins, Hetty-May
Sport, Education and Society, 20(8) (pp. 1065-1087)
"Get Up, and Shut Up, You Play like Tarzan and Moan like Jane”: Rugby Union Men and their Suppression of Body Anxiety (2017)
Darko, Natalie
In: Fogel, Curtis ed. Critical Perspectives on Gender and Sport. Sport and Society Series
Publisher : Champaign Common Ground Publishers
Rugby Union Men: Body Concerns (2012-07)
Darko, Natalie
PhD thesis Loughborough University
Outdoor Recreation as a Potential Lever for Health Improvement: A Review of the Health Benefits, Barriers and Opportunities for the Sector (2016-11-16)
Mackintosh, Chris; Zehndorfer, Elesa and Darko, Natalie
Metropolitan University Business School, Manchester.


Improving wellbeing through digital games

Dr Hannah R. Marson, Research Fellow in the Health & Wellbeing Priority Research Area, and organiser of the upcoming Digital Health & Wellbeing Conference, was interviewed by to discuss how research using digital games and associated technologies has been investigated in the area of health and wellbeing. Read the full article: Technology and Gaming for the Elderly: Improving Wellbeing.

20th November 2017
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