Health and Wellbeing Research at the Open University
At The Open University, we have four faculties:
Within the faculties, there are ‘schools’ for each area, many of our schools are involved with health and wellbeing research, some examples are below:
Arts and Humanities offers a multitude of perspectives on health and well-being. Arts and Humanities research in this area concerns how physical and psychological disorders have been understood and represented in different cultures and across different historical periods. For example, researchers working in Classical Studies investigate how ancient societies viewed the human body and its maladies. One aspect of this research is the Votives Project, involving E-J Graham, Jessica Hughes and Eleanor Betts, to study votive offerings — small objects, often in the shape of body parts, placed in temples or churches in hope of a cure – a practice which continues today in many parts of the world. The project, of which aims to bring together academics and practitioners to understand how these objects have been used and understood across cultures.
M.A Katritzky, Senior Research Fellow in Theatre Studies, is interested in both sides of this relationship: how people with non-normative physiological and mental conditions such as hypertrichosis or conjoined twinning have been presented on stage, and how drama and performance have themselves influenced medical writings. Philosophers, too are interested in how health and disease are understood: Carolyn Price and Cristina Chimisso are developing a project which aims to investigate the norms by which we judge certain conditions and emotional responses as healthy or unhealthy. In contrast, some Arts and Humanities researchers are interested in the ways in which art and music are themselves used in therapy: for example, Rosemary Golding has a broad interest in the relationships between music and health, and the identities and roles of music in nineteenth-century Britain. Her current research project is focused on the history of music in British asylums, particularly in the first half of the nineteenth century. She is hoping to develop the project further, by comparing historical ideas with current practice in order to provide a fresh perspective on attitudes towards music in a therapeutic setting.
Professor Stenner’s research interests include: Using Q methodology and qualitative methods. I have conducted detailed studies of the multiple perspectives and experiences at play in social circumstances involving complex health issues. I have studied a number of health issues using this ‘transdisciplinary psychosocial approach’ including IBS, drug addiction, ADHD and chronic lower back pain. I am also interested in concepts which link health concerns to subjectivity via forms of governance, such as ‘active ageing’, ‘wellbeing’, ‘health related quality of life’ and ‘self-management’. This concern linking health, subjectivity and governance addresses a form of ‘health citizenship’.
From 2011-14 Professor Stenner collaborated with a team based in South East England (with Dr Carol McCrum as PI) exploring the meaning of self-management in the care of chronic low-back disorder. Funded by a Research for Patient Benefit Programme grant from the National Institute for Health Research, this research developed a Q methodological instrument through which 4 distinct perspectives were identified amongst practitioners and patients. A next step will be to expand and develop this project to maximize the value of self-management for patients.
From April 2015 he collaborated with Dr Lindsay O’Dell, Dr Mary Horton-Salway and Dr Alsion Davies on a one year British Academy / Leverhulme Small Grant award funded project. This qualitative research explored how a sample of women diagnosed or self-diagnosed with ADHD understand their condition and its implications for their lives and those close to them. A next step will be to expand the sample in order to test our exploratory findings.
Future directions. The question of how to study subjectivity and experience is a growing concern within health related studies due to the increasing salience of patient-centred health care. The theoretical underpinnings and methodology appropriate to this concern will be a core area of interest in future years.