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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%.


Professor 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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Dr 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. Dr Norris is also an advocate for Open Science, interested in designing behaviour change interventions to facilitate Open Science behaviours in researchers. 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 a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA). She is Co-Chair of the European Health Psychology Society’s Open Science Special Interest Group and Conference Organiser of the Behavioural Science and Public Health Network. Emma sits on the Editorial Board for BMC Public Health & Cogent Psychology.