Impacts on Health and Wellbeing
Research in health and wellbeing at The Open University seeks to make a difference to the lives of individuals, communities and societies through research that challenges injustice and social inequality.
Research carried out by the Open University Business School (OUBS) has identified how clinical involvement in the leadership and governance of health services should be undertaken in practice. The sustained stream of research has had an impact on healthcare services at a national level, contributing to the work of an influential think-tank, influencing a Government task force and contributing to the guidance provided by the national NHS Leadership Academy. The latter has led to the collaborative development of a major continuing professional development (CPD) solution with a key management consultancy group. The research has also significantly impacted on management and governance of local healthcare trusts and has contributed to guidance by the healthcare regulator.
The work examines the relationship between diabetes and mental health, particularly in under-served or marginalised communities. Through extensive international collaborations research findings have been disseminated to a wide audience. Locally, service users have been involved in the development of alternative ways of obtaining informed consent, to allow greater research inclusivity. Culturally appropriate tools, for identifying depressive symptoms as well as knowledge deficits in diabetes self-care, have been designed and tested. As a result, a psychotherapy service for people with co-morbid diabetes and psychological problems has been successfully established in a diabetes centre attended by more than 6,000 individuals.
This research has profoundly influenced the practice of pharmacoepidemiology in 2008-13. The self-controlled case series (SCCS) method is particularly well-suited for working with computerised databases, which are increasingly used in epidemiology. The method has been recommended by international agencies (WHO, ECDC) and is now widely used by health practitioners within national public health agencies, including the CDC (USA), Public Health England (UK) and many other national and regional public health bodies. It has influenced practice within the private sector (notably the pharmaceutical and the healthcare industries). Use of the SCCS method has impacted on health by reducing costs, improving timeliness and improving the quality of evidence upon which policy decisions are based.
This project engages in research on the biological, cultural and cognitive aspects of autism, and in communicating the findings of these studies to a wider audience. The development of a rapid quantitative instrument of autistic traits has aided diagnostic practice. Through The Open University’s OpenLearn website and open educational resources associated with the Health Education And Training (HEAT) programme, this project contributes to raising autism awareness both in the UK and abroad.
This case study demonstrates the impact of an inter-related body of research, undertaken by The Open University’s (OU) Centre for Ageing and Biographical Studies, upon the ways in which older people experience everyday ageism, housing and design, and end-of-life care. The research has provided evidence for charities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) seeking to shape government legislation, initiate action on age-friendly environments, and to change care practice. As a result it has helped inform the UK’s Equality Act 2010, new guidance on toilets in public spaces, user-friendly extra-care housing and an exemplary training programme on end-of-life care in care homes.