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One of the things that sometimes happens when a person receives a diagnosis of dementia is that their life shrinks. They may have been enjoying an active life, and continue to have work, family or caring responsibilities, but hearing the word ‘dementia’ can conjure up fears about safety, and the need to scale back potentially risky activities. Loved ones may feel a need to protect the person with dementia. It is certainly true that people with advanced dementia may become confused and find themselves lost or in difficulty when in unfamiliar or even well-known places. But the journey from early diagnosis to late stages of the condition may be a long one, and the goal of health professionals is to maintain or enhance the individual’s quality of life for the longest time possible.
Esme Wood from Coventry University’s Centre for Technology Enabled Health Research is currently conducting a doctoral research project, looking at the role that technology might play in helping people with dementia enjoy outdoor activities. Can safer walking technology help reduce or delay life shrinking? If you or someone you know might be interested in taking part, please see Esme’s video on YouTube.
Esme has also reviewed the literature on safer walking technology. You can read her work at
Coventry University’s Health Psychology local interest group is hosting a guest talk and discussion on the use of (smartphone/tablet/web) apps in Health Psychology. This will include a presentation from Kristina Curtis about the development of her app for childhood obesity as well as a discussion of some of the key benefits and challenges to using apps.
This will be on 21st November at lunchtime (exact time and location to be confirmed shortly).
The meeting is being organised by Dr Naomi Bartle under the auspices of the Midlands Health Psychology Network Local Interest Group (MHPNLIG!)
Think of psychological research and the image that comes to mind might be completing a questionnaire, looking at some inkblots or perhaps participating in a bizarre social experiment. Psychological research methodologies encompass a much wider range of techniques and approaches. Some may seem deceptively low tech – such as focus groups and individual interviews, diaries and participant observations. However, health psychologists increasingly draw on information technology, social media and sophisticated electronic devices to conduct their research and put their theories into practice.
In the past year alone, students on the MSc health psychology did independent and collaborative research using interviews/focus groups to explore a range of topics including
- The attitudes of healthcare staff to providing positive birth experiences
- Academic midwifery perspectives on teaching about maternal obesity
- The experience of early stage dementia sufferers and their partners
- Barriers and facilitators to health promotion for South Asian people
- Young women’s beliefs about long-acting reversible contraception
- Service users and providers’ perspectives on stress management through vocational rehabilitation in schizophrenia
- South Asian fathers’ perspectives on childhood obesity
Previous students have used online surveys and studies of internet discussion forums to explore the experiences of patients and their families, for example, what it is like to be an elderly person whose adult son or daughter becomes increasingly disabled by multiple sclerosis.
Some of our outgoing MSc health psych students also designed a smart phone app to improve self management for adolescent boys with type 1 diabetes. An important consideration was that the app should work on the latest and most desirable mobile handset.
We already have close links with staff in the University’s Applied Research Centre in Health & Lifestyle Interventions, where numerous projects have harnessed technology to address issues as diverse as breastfeeding and adolescent sexual health. For 2013/14 we are hoping to work more closely with the university’s Health Design & Technology Institute and Serious Games Institute, with a view to realising some of the products our MSc students have designed.
Meanwhile we’ve welcomed a new piece of kit to Psychology & Behavioural Sciences in the form of an advanced eye tracker. There is a lot of scope for staff and postgraduate research using this facility. Being able to trace and record accurately where a person’s eyes are roaming is an excellent adjunct to more traditional research methods. For example, we can ask research participants whether they attend to nutritional information that’s presented on food labels or restaurant menus. Now we’ll be able to check what they actually look at and for how long. We might also be able to find out how people really navigate through health information websites, interact with health behaviour change apps and so on. Just need to check if the machine that makes all of this possible really does go ‘ping’.
Small print: This isn’t our actual machine – it is too fresh out of the packaging to be cornered for a photograph. Pic courtesy of wiki commons at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Eyetracker1.jpg