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Devices to monitor personal health: an opportunity for student research

fitbit ice cream beach me 2

Taunting my Fitbit

Inspired by David Sedaris’ tale in The New Yorker (he cheerfully combines healthy exercise with compulsive litter picking) I decided to invest in a Fitbit. This neat little wrist band has the facility to record the number of steps you take in any given day, as well as monitoring some aspects of sleep duration and quality.

Many people now use Fitbits to monitor their health, and use the companion website (and various apps and add-ons) to record dietary, drinking and other health behaviours. An Apple device that promises to record the same data and more is due out in spring 2015.

Health psychology trainees starting this autumn are well placed to design studies exploring the impact of Fitbit and other personal health monitoring devices. US users can already sign up to earn material rewards for their physical activity. If the same incentives were introduced in the UK, how effective might they be in motivating behaviour change? 

The Fitbit can only record a limited range of data at present, and users have to enter honestly any deviations from their planned dietary schedule.  If the Fitbit doesn’t know, do the calories still count 😉 ?

Carol P

 

High scores for the behaviour change taxonomy teams

Classificationsau

This week our undergraduate health psychology students have been looking at taxonomies of health behaviour change techniques – what they are, why we need them, and how to use them. A taxonomy (in the general sense) is a system for classifying things according to their distinguishing features.  Such classification systems have been used for everything from Catholic saints to Australian motion pictures.

To the health psychologist, a good taxonomy is a list which classifies the active ingredients that might form part of a behaviour change intervention. This might include, for example:

  • Providing people with information on the link between behaviour and health (e.g. telling people that smoking causes lung disease, that vaccination can protect from childhood illness, etc.)
  • Encouraging people to identify as a role model for others (e.g. encouraging parents to eat well and avoid smoking in order to set a good example for their children)
  • Giving people rewards contingent on their performing the desired behaviour (e.g. giving people a shopping voucher every time they pass a breath test that shows they’ve not smoked recently)

We need taxonomies to help us work out what the individual ingredients are in any programme or intervention. Knowing what the different parts are that make up the whole programme can help us test each part separately. Then we can focus on providing those active ingredients (programme components) that really work, and save money by leaving out components that don’t make any difference to the outcome.

There are lots of different lists and taxonomies available. For the undergraduate coursework we have chosen the taxonomy of 26 behaviour change techniques published by Abraham & Michie (2008). In today’s seminars we had a gentle competition to see which team (s) performed best at recognising the 26 techniques on the taxonomy. Scores were very impressive so this bodes well for students’ performance in the upcoming assignment.

Interpersonal violence: a health outcome of interest to health psychology?

Violence between intimate partners (or domestic violence, or interpersonal violence – it’s hard to choose a label for this phenomenon that isn’t problematic) might not seem the most relevant topic for health psychologists. Yet  violent crime is one of the most prominent health concerns highlighted in the public health profile for Coventry recently published by Public Health England.

Interpersonal violence has clear implications for the physical health and emotional wellbeing of all concerned, yet it doesn’t feature prominently on the standard health psychology curriculum. Some of the theoretical models that are widely used in health psychology may well apply to explaining interpersonal violence, and some of the same principles of behaviour change intervention may be relevant. Some colleagues at Coventry (led by Forensic Psychologist Erica Bowen) have formed a special interest group to address research and practice in this field. Their next meeting is coming soon.

Violence and Interpersonal Aggression: Interest group meeting

The next meeting of the Violence and Interpersonal Aggression interest group will take place on November 13th at 10.00 – 13.00 in Coventry University James Starley Building room 207 (2nd floor). The seminar component will comprise three presentations:

Dr Kate Walker, Coventry University: ‘The process of desistance from intimate partner violence’
Mike Bedford, Splitz (Trowbridge): ‘A group based intervention for male Domestic Violence perpetrators’
Chris Dyer, Mentoring West Midlands: ‘Piloting a mentoring scheme for high risk Domestic Violence perpetrators’

All are welcome to attend and please distribute this notice throughout your networks.

If you have any questions please contact Dr Erica Bowen, Forensic Psychologist c/o Psychology & Behavioural Sciences at Coventry University.

Posted by Carol Percy (course director MSc health psychology)

 

 

Guest speaker from Public Health

The MSc health psych team is very pleased to be welcoming Public Health Practitioner Angela Hands to speak to students on M96PY Health Promotion and Behaviour Change today.  Students – we have a room change for today (sorry): we will be in RC251 for Angela’s talk.  That’s second floor Richard Crossman Building.

Sweet Sixteen just got bigger

 

sweet sixteen

No, not a reference to swelling waistlines…

We have an addition to our Sweet Sixteen Birthday Celebration/Course Reunion in May 2014.

Undergraduate students on 365PY Health Psychology will be preparing (for their coursework) a poster recommending behaviour change interventions to improve the health of the people of Coventry.  The best of these will be chosen to be professionally printed and displayed at our celebration event.

If you have any ideas for ways to celebrate do get in touch.

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nickharris1/6743063839/

 

Motivational interviewing workshop 20th June – open for bookings

Our next on-campus MI workshop will be on 20th June 2013. For further details or to book a place click here.

For some evidence on the effectiveness of our training, click here.

Public health becomes a lot more local

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One of the big changes that spring (and the coalition government) has introduced to UK healthcare is the shift in responsibility for public health. The remit for this work lay previously with the NHS but it has now been moved to local government. This means that budgets for public health research and interventions will be transferred. Professionals working for local authorities will have to decide how money can be best spent to improve the health and wellbeing of their local populations. This might include, for example, health promotion campaigns around diet, physical activity, smoking, drugs and alcohol usage.

Health psychologists can contribute to designing and evaluating new programmes or adapting existing ones to make them more locally appropriate. For some more information on the changes and how they may affect you, see the updates at the Local Government Association’s website.