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Behaviour change interventions to improve population health and well-being

Unhealthy lifestyles, such as smoking and physical inactivity, leads to conditions such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases, reducing health, quality of life, and burdens our society.

Behaviours are shaped by - among other things- the individuals’ perceptions and the environment that they live in. Therefore, it is important to identify factors that determines individuals’ perception of health and wellbeing to be able to develop interventions that would enhance healthy behaviour. Such interventions need to be evaluated for their effectiveness and cost-effectiveness. 

Applicants are not bound to a specific health behaviour or target population and are welcome to come up with their own plan. Think about exploring perceptions, barriers, and facilitators, why a specific population do or do not engage in certain behaviours, such as tobacco smoking, physical inactivity, sedentary behaviour, alcohol consumption, unprotected sex, to name a few.

Other behaviours such as how clinicians, health professionals and policy makers engage in the adoption of evidence-based interventions to change their population’s unhealthy behaviour are also interesting to explore.

Applicants are expected to use frameworks such as that from socio-cognitive theories or behavioural economics to answer their research question. A multi-method approach involving a mix of qualitative and quantitative analyses is encouraged. Depending on the interest of the applicant, the Ph.D. project can focus on developing and testing health interventions, such as digital health interventions, for behaviour change. Various techniques can be applied to elicit population preferences to understand what is likely to be an acceptable intervention, e.g. interviewing, cross-sectional and longitudinal survey analyses, best-worst scaling, Delphi technique, and systematic reviews.

Applicants interested in pursuing the project would ideally have backgrounds in health promotion, health psychology, social psychology, public health, economics, communication science, artificial intelligence, or any other related subject.

References:

Cheung, K. L., Evers, S. M., Hiligsmann, M., Vokó, Z., Pokhrel, S., Jones, T., ... & de Vries, H. (2016). Understanding the stakeholders’ intention to use economic decision-support tools: a cross-sectional study with the tobacco return on investment tool. Health Policy120(1), 46-54.

Cheung, K. L., Evers, S. M. A. A., De Vries, H., Levy, P., Pokhrel, S., Jones, T., ... & Hiligsmann, M. (2018). Most important barriers and facilitators of HTA usage in decision-making in Europe. Expert review of pharmacoeconomics & outcomes research18(3), 297-304.

Cheung, K. L., de Ruijter, D., Hiligsmann, M., Elfeddali, I., Hoving, C., Evers, S. M., & de Vries, H. (2017). Exploring consensus on how to measure smoking cessation. A Delphi study. BMC public health17(1), 890.

Cheung, K. L., Schwabe, I., Walthouwer, M., Oenema, A., Lechner, L., & De Vries, H. (2017). Effectiveness of a video-versus text-based computer-tailored intervention for obesity prevention after one year: A randomized controlled trial. International journal of environmental research and public health14(10), 1275.

Cheung, K. L., Hiligsmann, M., Präger, M., Jones, T., Józwiak-Hagymásy, J., Munoz, C., ... & Evers, S. M. (2018). Optimizing usability of an economic decision support tool: prototype of the EQUIPT tool. International journal of technology assessment in health care34(1), 68-77.

Anokye, N. K., Trueman, P., Green, C., Pavey, T. G., & Taylor, R. S. (2012). Physical activity and health related quality of life. BMC public health12(1), 624.

 

How to apply

If you are interested in applying for the above PhD topic please follow the steps below:

  1. Contact the supervisor by email or phone to discuss your interest and find out if you woold be suitable. Supervisor details can be found on this topic page. The supervisor will guide you in developing the topic-specific research proposal, which will form part of your application.
  2. Click on the 'Apply here' button on this page and you will be taken to the relevant PhD course page, where you can apply using an online application.
  3. Complete the online application indicating your selected supervisor and include the research proposal for the topic you have selected.

Good luck!

This is a self funded topic

Brunel offers a number of funding options to research students that help cover the cost of their tuition fees, contribute to living expenses or both. See more information here: https://www.brunel.ac.uk/research/Research-degrees/Research-degree-funding. The UK Government is also offering Doctoral Student Loans for eligible students, and there is some funding available through the Research Councils. Many of our international students benefit from funding provided by their governments or employers. Brunel alumni enjoy tuition fee discounts of 15%.

Meet the Supervisor(s)


Emma Norris - Dr Emma Norris is a Lecturer in Public Health, within the Department of Health Sciences and Co-Chair of the Health Behaviour Change Research Group. Dr Norris is a researcher in behaviour change and health psychology, exploring evidence synthesis of behaviour change interventions, as well as development and assessment of physical activity, smoking cessation and digital interventions. Before joining Brunel, Dr Norris was a Research Fellow at the Centre for Behaviour Change at University College London working on the Human Behaviour-Change Project: synthesising published literature on behaviour change using machine learning and Artificial Intelligence. Dr Norris' PhD tested Virtual Field Trips as physically active lesson interventions for primary-school children. Dr Norris is also an advocate for Open Science. She established and Chairs Brunel's Open Research Working Group and is Brunel's UK Reproducibility Network (UKRN) Local Network Lead. She is also interested in designing behaviour change interventions to facilitate Open Science behaviours in researchers. Dr Norris is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA). She is Co-Chair of the European Health Psychology Society’s Open Science Special Interest Group. Emma sits on the Editorial Board for BMC Public Health & Cogent Psychology. Follow Dr Norris' research and updates on Twitter: @EJ_Norris

Subhash Pokhrel - Subhash is a professor of health economics and the Head of Department of Health Sciences and the Lead of the Health Economics Research Group (HERG). Subhash's research has contributed to several public health policies. The suite of NICE Public Health ROI Tools – which provided the basis for many public health investment decisions in England - was informed by the work on tobacco control led by Subhash. The ROI tools are practical, customisable models to help make real-world decisions in context of local government decision-making. Economic arguments are needed to make the business case for public health investments. Subhash led the roll out of ROI work to several European nations through a €2 million multi-centre European Commission funded study, EQUIPT. He has been the coordinator of a large scale inter-disciplinary collaboration of national and international expertise. Subhash is the lead author of a book, ROI in Public Health Policy: Supporting Decision Making (Palgrave Macmillan). Subhash’s work in public health research has been as diverse as the discipline itself – from developing a household decision making pathway for child health care in low- and middle income countries (LMICs) to quantifying the economic impact of breastfeeding promotion in industrialised countries; from evaluating health insurance for its population health impact in LMICs to finding out what interventions improve physical activity globally. Subhash is intrigued by the following question: In LMICs and industrialised countries, what works to improve population health outcomes and at what cost?
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Nana Anokye - Nana is the Director of Division of Global Public Health at the Department of Health Sciences within the College of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences. Nana's work on Economics of Physical Activity has been used by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence to formulate three national public health guidelines on exercise referral schemes, and brief advice for adults in primary care. He has quantified how time and money prices influence behaviour change. Having won the Walduck Prize for Research Impact, Nana’s work further secured prestigious UK Department of Health funding to conduct the first ever English general population survey on the economics of physical activity. His interests in public health are wide-ranging. How primary care can improve health outcomes; whether financial incentives improve maternal and child health; and what the link between shopping vouchers and breastfeeding may be, are some of the public health questions Nana is keen to answer. As an ardent gym goer himself, his quest for knowledge led him to investigate whether physical activity was any more independent from sedentary behaviour. Nana is Chair of ISPAH LMIC Council and a member of the Africa Research Excellence Fund (AREF) College of Experts. As Institute of Leadership and Management certified coach and mentor and a former broadcast journalist, Nana is passionate about communicating research and supporting research careers through podcasts – the Research Life, which he co-founded with colleagues. Nana has a PhD in Health Economics (Brunel), an MSc in Environmental Resources Management from Brandenburg University of Technology (Germany) and, a BA in Economics and Sociology from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (Ghana).
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Related Research Group(s)

Health Economics (HERG)

Health Economics (HERG) - Our strategic focus is on economic evaluation and systematic reviews of a broad range of clinical and health service technologies by providing high-quality, applied, policy-relevant research, as well as developing and refining methods to increase the rigour and relevance of such studies.