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Please note that these are simply potential project ideas - no specific funding is attached. For information on funding please see here. Applicants are also welcome to submit their own project ideas.

Those wishing to apply for one the below projects will still need to submit their own research proposal. Your proposal should expand on the basic outline published below and should demonstrate: your knowledge and skills in the area; your ideas of how to approach the topic; any areas of your specific interest within the broader area specified and how you see the project developing during the course of your DPhil.

Producing your own, more detailed, research proposal gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your strengths more extensively than on a CV or application form and is a good way for you to make a strong impression on the selection panel.

Please check our course pages here for entry requirements and details on how to apply. If you have any questions about the process, please contact our Postgraduate Training Officer, Daniel Long (daniel.long@phc.ox.ac.uk); for questions about the projects, please contact supervisors directly.

 

 

Feasibility of “fitness age” as a motivator for positive physical activity behaviour and improved health outcomes in UK primary care

Proposing supervisors: Dr David Nunan, Dr Kamal R. Mahtani

Project description

Physical fitness, defined as “a set of attributes that people possess or achieve that relates to the ability to perform physical activity”,1 is a strong risk factor for mortality, morbidity and ill health. This risk is independent of physical activity levels and other well established risk factors (e.g. blood pressure, cholesterol, BMI). A higher fitness level offsets the incidence and impact of chronic disease across the age spectrum, but particularly into older age.2 Moreover, poor performance of simple physical capacity assessments (e.g. grip strength, chair rise and standing balance time) carried out in the home setting by a nurse is associated with a 7-fold increase in mortality risk.3

This raises the prospect of an ideal “fitness age” as an informative concept in risk profiling; akin to the “heart age” metric currently used in practice for cardiovascular risk prediction.4  Heart age has been shown in randomised trials as a plausible motivational tool for the adoption of healthier cardiovascular lifestyles and reduced CVD risk.5  Similarly, informing smokers of their lung age has shown to be a strong motivator for instigating and maintaining positive behaviour changes in UK primary care settings,6 and appears receptive by primary care providers.7  Fitness age may provide a similar cue for motivating individuals towards favourable physical activity and lifestyle behaviours and thus the potential for better health outcomes.

This studentship will be part of a new research collaboration between groups within the host department, Public Health England and Better Value Healthcare (lead by Sir Muir Gray). This department already has a strong track record in research on brief interventions in primary care. The selected student will work in a priority clinical area to primary care, as well as develop methodological experience in mixed-methods research including systematic reviews, questionnaire/survey and qualitative data collection.

The research team

 The studentship will be linked to a number of research active groups within the department (https://www.phc.ox.ac.uk/) including the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine (http://www.cebm.net/) and the Behavioural Medicine Research Group (https://www.phc.ox.ac.uk/research/behavioural-medicine). The student will work alongside Dr David Nunan (https://www.phc.ox.ac.uk/team/david-nunan), a departmental lecturer and senior researcher, Dr Kamal Mahtani, (https://www.phc.ox.ac.uk/team/kamal-mahtani), an academic GP and a member of the Behavioural Medicine Research Group. Between them they have extensive experience in clinical exercise science, complex systematic reviews and behavioural research methodology, with a strong emphasis on evidence-into-practice. There may also be opportunities to link this work with the RCGP Physical Activity and Lifestyle Clinical Priority, a 3-year programme to promote the uptake of evidence-based physical activity and lifestyle interventions in primary care.

Who should apply?

Candidates will be expected to be familiar with the basics of evidence synthesis, and quantitative and qualitative research methodology as applied to healthcare settings and to hold a good undergraduate degree and a Masters degree in a relevant subject (such as clinical exercise science, public health, evidence-based health care, communications science, behavioural science).  The overarching topic for study has been identified but specific questions and research methodology should be identified by the candidate, who should offer a preliminary literature review as part of the application. 

  1. American College of Sports Medicine. ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 9th revised North American ed edition (1 Feb. 2013).
  2. Willis BL, Gao A, Leonard D, et al. Midlife Fitness and the Development of Chronic Conditions in Later Life. Arch Intern Med. 2012;172:1333-40.
  3. Cooper R, Heine Strand B, Hardy R, et al. Physical capability in mid-life and survival over 13 years follow-up: British birth cohort study. BMJ. 2014;348:g2219
  4. NHS Choices. Your NHS health check results and action plan. Accessed on 15.11.2016: (http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/nhs-health-check/pages/your-nhs-health-check-results-and-action-plan.aspx).
  5. Lopez-Gonzalez et al. Effectiveness of the Heart Age tool for improving modifiable cardiovascular risk factors in a Southern European population: a randomized trial. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. 2015;22:389-96.
  6. Parkes G, Greenhalgh T, Griffin M, Dent R. Effect on smoking quit rates of telling patients their lung age: the Step2quit randomized controlled trial. BMJ. 2008;336:598–600.
  7. Parker D, Eltinge S, Rafferty, C, et al. Primary Care Providers’ Views on Using Lung Age as an Aid to Smoking Cessation Counseling for Patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Lung. 2015;193:321-27.

 

Progressing the role and evidence-base for ‘Exercise as Medicine’ in UK primary care settings

 Proposing supervisors: Dr David Nunan, Dr Kamal R. Mahtani, Dr Veronika Williams

Project description

In 2011, the Chief Medical Officers in the UK issued guidance on the recommended levels of physical activity for adults.1 The guidance aims to tackle the well-established links between sedentary lifestyle, chronic disease and mortality and estimated economic cost to the NHS of £450m annually and findings that nearly half of all adults in the UK never do any moderate level physical activity.2 In response, there have been growing calls for healthcare professionals to help tackle the problem of physical inactivity, with primary care professionals seen as ideally placed to lead the fight and to “question patients about their physical activity and exercise habits at every meeting.”3

When surveyed, 92% and 99% of GPs and practice nurses agreed that promoting physical activity was an important part of their role.4 However, this agreement may be at odds with what is happening in clinical practice, with other reports highlighting that opportunistic brief interventions to increase physical activity occur in only a quarter of appropriate instances.5 Barriers include clinicians’ time constraints, a lack of knowledge of what detailed advice to give, and a lack of available tools/resources to support the brief intervention.4

There is a clear “knowledge-to-action” gap between UK recommendations for physical activity and professionals’ uptake it in primary care settings. Existing initiatives, such as “exercise on prescription” schemes often overly generalise the intervention, hampered by a lack of evidence-based information around which physical activity interventions work and to whom they should be targeted. There is also a lack of knowledge translation tools to effectively support the delivery of this information.

This studentship will be part of on going NIHR funded work seeking to reduce this knowledge-to-action gap. We are currently completing a funded evidence synthesis assessing the quality of evidence for physical activity interventions in the prevention and treatment of 20 chronic health conditions.6 However, our synthesis has highlighted the lack of disease specific head-to-head evaluations, allowing for more clear recommendations about the types of activity to recommend for a certain disease type. One of the next key steps will therefore be to conduct a complex evidence synthesis of direct and indirect comparisons. This information will then be used to construct a “formulary” of evidence based, disease specific physical activity interventions for patients and practitioners. To support the translation of knowledge, the formulary may also benefit from a patient/clinician decision tool (The “Evidence of Effects” page) that we are also developing in another, parallel NIHR funded project. The potential implementation of the formulary can then be explored in end-users.

The selected student will work in a priority clinical area to primary care, as well as develop methodological experience in complex systematic reviews, questionnaire/survey and qualitative data collection.

The research team

The studentship will be linked to the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine (http://www.cebm.net/) within the Department of Primary Care Health Sciences (https://www.phc.ox.ac.uk/).  Dr David Nunan (https://www.phc.ox.ac.uk/team/david-nunan), a departmental lecturer and senior researcher, Dr Kamal Mahtani (https://www.phc.ox.ac.uk/team/kamal-mahtani), an academic GP, and Dr Veronika Williams (https://www.phc.ox.ac.uk/team/veronika-williams), a senior researcher, between them have extensive experience in clinical exercise science, complex systematic reviews and qualitative research methodology, with a strong emphasis on evidence-into-practice and mixed-methods research. There may also be opportunities to link this work with the RCGP Physical Activity and Lifestyle Clinical Priority, a 3-year programme to promote the uptake of evidence-based physical activity and lifestyle interventions in primary care.

Who should apply?

Candidates will be expected to be familiar with the basics of evidence synthesis, and quantitative and qualitative research methodology as applied to healthcare settings and to hold a good undergraduate degree and a Masters degree in a relevant subject (such as clinical exercise science, public health, evidence-based health care, communications science, behavioural science).  The overarching topic for study has been identified but specific questions and research methodology should be identified by the candidate, who should offer a preliminary literature review as part of the application.

  1.  Department of Health. Start Active, Stay Active: A report on physical activity from the four home countries’ Chief Medical Officers. Accessed on 15.11.2016 https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/216370/dh_128210.pdf London: DoH; 2011.
  2. Public Health England. Physical inactivity: economic costs to NHS clinical commissioning groups. Accessed 15.11.2016 https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/524234/Physical_inactivity_costs_to_CCGs.pdf London: DoH; 2016
  3. Academy of Medical Royal Colleges. Exercise—the miracle cure. Accessed 02.02.2016. http://www.aomrc.org.uk/publications/reports-guidance/exercise-the-miracle-cure-0215/  London; Academy of Medical Royal Colleges: 2015.
  4. Hébert ET, Caughy MO, Shuval K. Primary care providers’ perceptions of physical activity counselling in a clinical setting: a systematic review. Br J Sports Med 2012;46:625-31.
  5. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Physical activity: exercise referral schemes. NICE guidelines PH54. Accessed on 15.11.2016: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ph54.
  6. Nunan D, Mahtani KR, Roberts N, Heneghan C. Physical activity for the prevention and treatment of major chronic disease: an overview of systematic reviews. Syst Rev 2013;2:56.

 Evidence To Support An Expanded NHS Primary Care Workforce

Proposed supervisory team: Veronika Williams (Senior Research Fellow), Kamal R. Mahtani (GP & Associate Professor) and Geoff Wong (GP & Senior Clinical Research Fellow)

Project description

Primary care services, specifically UK general practice, are under considerable pressure. To meet some of these challenges, both the NHS Five Year Forward View and the Primary Care Workforce Commission recommended a broader and more multidisciplinary primary care team, suggesting that there may be greater opportunities for extended roles of non-medical practitioners such as pharmacists, nurses, paramedics and allied health professionals. However, evidence is needed to support the optimal implementation of these roles into current practice.

The work will build on an existing programme of work to support the evidence base for primary care redesign, including work within the NIHR SPCR Evidence Synthesis Working Group, Centre for Evidence Based Medicine and Interdisciplinary Research in Health Sciences (IRIHS) group.

The proposal may use a variety of research designs including evidence synthesis, qualitative and realist methods. Training and supervision will be provided, and there will be opportunities to form national and international collaborations as the work develops.

Stakeholder involvement will be a critical feature of the proposed DPhil work. Stakeholders will include patients and members of the public, as well as clinicians and those working at a local and national policy level. The department offers several ways in which to support PPI and stakeholder work.

We would welcome anyone interested to approach us to discuss your plans for their DPhil, outlining what your plans are and why this area of focus is important.

For more information contact Dr Veronika Williams

 

Using behavioural science to help implement innovations in health systems.

The NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) is a collaboration between the University of Oxford and Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust undertaking ‘translational research’, bringing laboratory research into clinical care. The ‘Partnerships’ theme of the BRC provides cross-cutting support to the BRC as a whole, focusing on supporting translation and partnerships with other stakeholders, and carrying out research on the BRC itself to improve its effectiveness.  One research theme within this is the use of behavioural science to better understand the process of implementation; how to bring innovations into practice; the ‘how’ of change, rather than the ‘what’.  For example, this could mean looking at one or more biomedical innovations generated through the BRC, and exploring the factors affecting how this innovation is adopted or not adopted in practice within the NHS.

Potential applicants should have an interest in implementation research and a background in a relevant discipline. Knowledge of mixed methods and practical experience of implementing change in a health system would be an advantage.  Students would be based in the IRIHS (Interdisciplinary Research in the Health Sciences) research unit within the Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, which undertakes  mixed-method research at the interface between social sciences and medicine. Interested applicants are welcome to contact Nick Fahy for more information.

 Measuring public attitudes to antimicrobial use and resistance

Applications are invited from individuals with a strong academic record who wish to develop a career in behaviour science and/or primary care research. The student will work within the Infectious Diseases Research Group led by Prof Chris Butler in the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences. This is a three year programme and will normally be taken up in October 2019.

The project

Antimicrobial resistance is a worldwide health threat which leads to antimicrobials becoming ineffective for the treatment of serious infections. The prudent use of antibiotics is an urgent, worldwide public health priority.  To date health campaigns have sought to increase public knowledge of appropriate antibiotic use and to reduce patient expectations for antibiotics for certain infections. Several studies, across various countries, have sought to identify public knowledge, attitudes and behaviours towards antibiotics but no standard, validated measure has been developed.

This doctoral research program will involve the development and validation of an instrument to measure the knowledge, beliefs, attitudes and practice of individual’s towards antimicrobial use and resistance. This will involve a programme of work which involves both quantitative and qualitative skills. The proposed outline for the project includes three components, although this may be flexible according to early findings and the students’ own ideas.

Study 1: A systematic review of existing approaches for measuring public knowledge, beliefs, attitudes and behaviour towards antimicrobial use.

Study 2: Qualitative work to explore individuals’ understanding of antibiotics and to develop questionnaire items which are meaningful to members of the public through cognitive interviewing. This work will consider antibiotic consumption in an international context.

Study 3: The development and testing of an instrument to measure public knowledge, attitudes and practices concerning antimicrobial use in a variety of contexts.

The outcome of the project will provide a valuable resource for future research and help to identify the impact of interventions and campaigns targeted at reducing unnecessary antimicrobial consumption.

The project will be supervised by Professor Chris Butler, who has an active interest in promoting prudent use of antimicrobials and Dr Sarah Tonkin-Crine, who has an active interest in understanding and modifying behaviours in relation to antibiotic consumption. Professor Sarah Walker, Nuffield Department of Medicine, will advise on statistical matters including psychometric approaches.

Applicants are expected to be predicted or to have achieved a first-class or an upper second class undergraduate degree (or equivalent international qualification) in a relevant subject. However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a master’s degree in addition to a strong undergraduate degree.

Although no specific funding is attached to this opportunity, the studentships available through the School for Primary Care Research offer an opportunity for funding; further information can be found here: http://www.spcr.nihr.ac.uk/trainees. Students with overseas fee status are welcome to apply but will need to fund the remainder of their fees from alternative sources. 

Interested applicants should contact Sarah Tonkin-Crine (sarah.tonkin-crine@phc.ox.ac.uk), enclosing a CV, to discuss the project and for advice on the application process.

 
Engaging community pharmacists with antibiotic stewardship

Applications are invited from individuals with a strong academic record who wish to develop a career in behaviour science and/or primary care research. The student will work within the Infectious Diseases Research Group led by Professor Chris Butler in the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences. This is a three year programme and will normally be taken up in October 2019.

The project

Antibiotic stewardship (AMS) requires encouraging populations to alter the way they use antibiotics so it is fundamentally a human behaviour change issue. Many behaviour change interventions have focussed on general practice, where the majority of antibiotics are prescribed. The focus is generally on reducing the use of antibiotics for acute, self-limiting respiratory tract infections (RTIs), where antibiotics offer minimal or no benefit over and above self-care. Community-based interventions have targeted general practice staff, adult and child patients, and members of the public but, thus far, not community pharmacists. This is surprising since AMS strategies have directed the public to use pharmacies for advice about treatment of symptoms of acute illness.

Increasing understanding of antibiotic resistance and empowering people to self-care for RTIs requires clear and consistent messages. Pharmacists can enhance general practice by providing accessible management advice to patients with symptoms of infections and promoting appropriate antibiotic use. At the same time, advice should ensure those who are likely to receive meaningful benefit from antibiotics should receive them, serious illness should not be missed, and that safe care should be paramount.

This proposed research will develop an intervention to support community pharmacists to provide enhanced care for patients with symptoms of infections and to support their role as antibiotic stewards. This will involve;

  • A systematic review of literature investigating pharmacists’ attitudes and experiences of antibiotic stewardship activities.
  • An interview study exploring pharmacists’ views and experiences of AMS and a questionnaire exploring patients’ preferences for pharmacist-led healthcare.
  • The co-design of materials to support pharmacists to deliver evidence-based, safe, self-care advice to patients with RTI, tested in a feasibility study.

The project will be supervised by Professor Chris Butler, who has an active interest in promoting prudent use of antimicrobials and Dr Sarah Tonkin-Crine, who has an active interest in understanding and modifying behaviours in relation to antibiotic consumption.

Applicants are expected to be predicted or to have achieved a first-class or an upper second class undergraduate degree (or equivalent international qualification) in a relevant subject. However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a master’s degree in addition to a strong undergraduate degree.

Although no specific funding is attached to this opportunity, the studentships available through the School for Primary Care Research offer an opportunity for funding; further information can be found here: http://www.spcr.nihr.ac.uk/trainees. Students with overseas fee status are welcome to apply but will need to fund the remainder of their fees from alternative sources. 

Interested applicants should contact Sarah Tonkin-Crine (sarah.tonkin-crine@phc.ox.ac.uk), enclosing a CV, to discuss the project and for advice on the application process.

  

Treating childhood obesity

Supervisors:  Professor Susan Jebb, Professor Paul Aveyard, Dr Kate Tudor

One in ten children in reception classes are already defined as obese, rising to 1 in 5 leaving primary school and excess weight often tracks into later life. Alongside public health efforts to prevent obesity in children there is an urgent need to develop ways to support children and their families to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

Our previous research with adults has shown that brief opportunistic interventions from GPs can motivate people to join a weight management programme leading to successful weight loss at 1 year.  We now want to consider how we can help health professionals to make effective interventions to treat obesity in children.

The project is likely to include the following elements:

(i)                 A systematic review of behavioural interventions to treat obesity in children with a focus on routine healthcare settings and/or family-based interventions

(ii)               Qualitative research with practitioners and parents to explore their attitudes and beliefs regarding health professional involvement in obesity management in children

(iii)             A feasibility study and process evaluation of a prototype intervention

The project will suit a student with interest and knowledge of both quantitative and qualitative research methods. Prior experience in working with patients or the public would be an advantage.

The student will join other obesity researchers in the thriving Health Behaviours team in the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences. We are currently working on range of interventions in primary care and in the community to support adults who are trying to lose weight.

 

Interventions to encourage healthier food purchasing

Supervisors:  Professor Susan Jebb and Dr Carmen Piernas

Poor diet is one of the major contributors to preventable morbidity and premature mortality in the UK. Food and drink purchases from grocery stores are a crucial antecedent of household consumption and interventions which change food purchasing have the potential to encourage healthier food choices at a scale to bring public health benefits.  We have recently published a systematic review of interventions to change food purchasing in grocery stores, we have already developed a virtual online supermarket which can be used to conduct early phase testing and we have an ongoing trials with a major retailer.

There are three potential aspects to this project. First to develop methods and tools to monitor the healthfulness of in-store and online grocery stores, to assess current practices and monitor changes over time. Second to develop interventions to encourage healthier food purchases. Finally to conduct a feasibility field trial in real online or physical stores or other food environments.

The project will suit a student with some knowledge of both nutrition and behaviour change and with strong quantitative research skills. It is likely to involve direct collaborations with the food industry.

The student will join the thriving Health Behaviours team in the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences. We are currently working on range of interventions in primary care and in the community to support people to change their food consumption, including behavioural interventions for weight loss and reductions in saturated fat or salt to reduce cardiovascular risk.

 

Optimising behavioural support for weight management interventions

Supervisors: Professor Susan Jebb and Dr Dimitrios Koutoukidis

One in four adults in the UK are affected by obesity and many will also have obesity-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease and atrial fibrillation. Weight loss reduces cardiovascular disease risk and may improve disease outcomes. However, there is considerable variability in the outcomes of weight loss programmes reflecting the nature of the dietary intervention, the behavioural support provided and the characteristics of individual participants.

Drawing on data collected in previous intervention studies, the project will seek to improve the outcomes of weight management interventions by optimising the behavioural support and tailoring this to the needs of individual participants, without losing the ability to deliver interventions at scale. The goal is to draw on best practice to develop programmes that can be easily delivered and supported by generalist practitioners in routine healthcare settings.

The project is likely to include several aspects of the following elements:

  • Analysis of existing audio-recordings of different types of interventions to map the dietary and behavioural components of effective interventions
  • A review of the effectiveness of options to provide remote support
  • Development of an optimised intervention for weight management
  • A feasibility trial and process evaluation of the optimised intervention

The project will suit a student with a background in nutrition, dietetics, and/or psychology and both quantitative and qualitative skills.

The student will join other diet and obesity researchers within the thriving Health Behaviours team in the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences. We are currently working on range of interventions in primary care and in the community to support people to change their food consumption, including behavioural interventions for weight loss and reductions in saturated fat or salt to reduce cardiovascular risk.

 Dietary interventions to prevent gestational diabetes

Supervisors: Professor Susan Jebb and Dr Nerys Astbury

In the UK, approximately 16% of all pregnant women and roughly 25-30% of obese pregnant women will develop gestational diabetes (GDM), which increases the risk of significant maternal and neonatal morbidity. Recent interventions implemented during pregnancy have achieved small reductions in weight gain but have not decreased the incidence of GDM.  Preventing and managing GDM is recognised as a research priority by Diabetes UK and a recent patient priority setting exercise.

There overall aim of this project is to explore dietary interventions to help prevent and manage GDM. It would suit a student from a nutrition, dietetics or similar background or equally medical, nursing or midwifery graduates wishing to pursue research in women’s reproductive health.

The central component of the project will involve the development, feasibility testing and process evaluation of a dietary intervention to attenuate excessive weight gain and reduce hyperglycaemia in women at risk of developing GDM. In addition there will be opportunities to conduct additional research including a systematic review and secondary data analysis of existing datasets. The project will include a strong element of public and patient involvement in the research.

The student will join the diet and obesity group within the thriving Health Behaviours team in the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences. We are currently working on range of interventions in support dietary change and have close working relationships with colleagues in the Obstetrics and Gynaecology department at Oxford University Hospitals. 

 

Developing an intervention to improve GP engagement in smoking cessation 

Supervisors: Nicola Lindson, Jamie Hartmann-Boyce, Paul Aveyard

Tobacco use causes over 7 million deaths every year, and smoking is a contributing factor to many chronic diseases. This costs the global economy more than 1 trillion US dollars annually. Stopping smoking can result in numerous health benefits and improved prognosis for a range of chronic conditions. However, GPs can be hesitant about providing smoking cessation support in this context. In the UK, widespread funding cuts to community-based smoking clinics mean that purpose built support to stop smoking is now unavailable to many. This means it is more important than ever to maximise the potential for smoking cessation intervention through existing routine healthcare contacts, particularly for people with long-term health conditions who see their GP routinely and could benefit from quitting the most.

Therefore, the Health Behaviours team in the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences are looking for a DPhil student to carry out a programme of work exploring ways to more effectively engage general practitioners (GPs) in offering smoking cessation interventions to people with pre-existing conditions. We envisage this programme could consist of the following elements:

  • Primary analysis of a large dataset collected from general practices to investigate the incidence of smoking cessation intervention in patients with chronic conditions and the effect of this on disease prognosis;
  • Secondary data analysis in the form of a systematic review, investigating the effects of quitting smoking on the trajectory of chronic conditions;
  • Intervention development and piloting. This will involve engagement with healthcare practitioners and wider healthcare systems to investigate ways to effectively disseminate the findings of the previous primary and secondary data analyses. This dissemination will seek to engage healthcare practitioners with an aim to improve their engagement with smoking cessation and intervention at the primary care level.

The student will work within an experienced team of researchers specialising in Behavioural Medicine. The team is also home to the Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group who have an international reputation for high quality systematic reviews in smoking prevention and cessation.

 

The role of social media influencers in promoting certain health behaviours

Supervisors: Prof John Powell & Professor Sue Ziebland

One of the key features of the popular social media channels such as YouTube and Instagram has been the rise of the 'influencer': key individuals with followers (often young) numbering millions, whose popularity is harnessed by advertisers and product promoters. This presents an interesting opportunity, and potential challenge, to those seeking to influence public health behaviours, such as healthy eating, exercise or public health services use such as around screening or immunisation. This is an emerging area with little published work. A proposed DPhil would initially synthesise the current literature and then undertake a stakeholder exercise to capture expert views. Further work (which could be tailored to the student's interests) could encompass a qualitative study to explore the motivations and behaviours of 'followers', perhaps combined with some investigation of influencers. There could also be scope for quantitative study of influence (for example using network approaches), as well as feasibility work around the possibility of an intervention study using an influencer.