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Current Doctoral Candidates

Phyu Sin Aye (full time)
Supervisors: Dr Aravinda Guntupalli, Dr Julius Mugwagwa, Dr Claudia Simoes

This study has been built on the findings of recent CONCORD-2 international cancer survival study showing that the international disparity in cancer survival outcomes remained substantial. Cancer survival is a measure of survival of a patient from the time of diagnosis of cancer to a certain point of time such as 1 year, 5 years and so on. Thus cancer survival may reflect health care services for early diagnosis and effective treatment of cancer. Substantial international variations in cancer survival outcomes translate into variations in cancer care services which can be matched up to an optimal level. This study aims to explore the areas in health systems performance to improve early cancer diagnosis and optimal treatment in order to achieve better cancer survival outcomes.

This study will be carried out in an international perspective looking at the associations between health systems performance indicators and cancer survival outcomes in-depth. The population-based cancer survival data for major types of cancer and the health systems performance indicators for various countries will be collected from published literature and publicly available online statistics. Quantitative analyses and multivariable modelling will be performed to understand the effects of health systems performance indicators and other mediating factors on cancer survival outcomes. The avoidable deaths will also be estimated based on the cancer survival discrepancies. The results will inform health policy makers and practitioners to assist in making optimal policy choices for improvement in health systems performance, ultimately to improve cancer survival outcomes.

Parvathy Harilal
Supervisors: Dr Caroline Holland and Prof Shailey Minocha

In the current context of population ageing, self-management of health by older people can be very advantageous. One cost-effective way to promote self-management of health among older people is by facilitating health literacy. Digital technologies can offer much help in this context through digital health literacy resources such as websites and mobile apps. Although, many previous researchers have recognised this potential and have tried to provide different solutions, there still is potential for improvement. To realise this potential, we need to create better understanding of what older people actually want. Hence, the overall aim of my study is to create a clear understanding of what older people want from digital technologies so that they can gain and sustain health literacy skills.

To create this understanding, it is important to explore older people’s digital health literacy in the context of their day-to-day lives. Hence, this mixed method study will try to explore older people’s motivations for engaging with these resources and their experiences during these interactions. The study will also look at how the design of different digital health literacy resources and other related off-line interactions impact these experiences over time and how we could make design interventions to positively influence their experiences. For this research the data will be collected using different metods like surveys, semi-structured interviews, and focus groups. Thematic analysis will be adopted for analyzing the data.

Tom Witney
Supervisors: Dr Peter Keogh, Professor Jacqui Gabb, Professor Darren Langdridge

My project aims to examine the experiences of gay/bisexual men in serodiscordant relationships (where one partner is HIV positive and the other HIV negative) in an era in which antiretroviral treatments for HIV have been shown to substantially mitigate the risk of sexual HIV transmission. It will use phenomenological analysis of data gathered through mixed qualitative methods to investigate participants’ experiences of serodiscordancy and the practices they use to sustain their relationship. In adopting this approach, I aim to use biomedicalisation theory to provide a social scientific account of how a biomedical advance influences – and in turn is influenced by – an individual’s lived experience.

Jade Levell
Supervisors: Dr Rod Earle, Dr Johanna Motzkau, Dr Chris Kubiak

This research seeks to explore the narratives of male gang members who were exposed to domestic violence and abuse (DVA) in childhood. A meta-analysis of international studies on the impact of exposure to domestic abuse identified a range of behavioural, cognitive, social and emotional impacts across all of the relevant research (Wolfe et al. 2003). Witnessing domestic abuse at home is a risk factor for later gang membership (Centre for Social Justice 2009; Home Office 2011) and there have been reports by professionals of a high prevalence of gang members who have been exposed to DVA. Despite there being a clear overlap between the two issues or ‘planets’ (Hester 2011) of domestic violence services and gang outreach services there is little professional contact between the two for ‘child survivors’ of abuse. By shining a light on this intersection this research aims to improve front-line work with these dual affected young people. Qualitative methods will be used to explore with gang members their perception of their experiences as well as to ascertain whether the dual experience of witnessing DVA and being gang-involved have affected and shaped their gender identity and performance. The explorations will be informed by a feminist, post-structuralist theoretical approach.

Rebecca Owens
Supervisors: Dr Sarah Earle, Dr Liz Tilley and Dr Cliodna McNulty

Designing an inclusive evaluation of a community education course on hygiene, self-care and antibiotics for people with learning disabilities.

This research will design, develop and test an inclusive methodology for evaluating a community education course for people with learning disabilities.  Conducting inclusive research with people with learning disabilities presents methodological challenges (Walmsley and Johnson, 2003).  However, such research can provide a particularly realistic understanding of individual experiences, learning needs and outcomes.

The course, Beat the Bugs, aims to educate people with learning disabilities on hygiene, the spread of infection and antibiotics.  It is designed to trigger behaviour change in this context and aims to be a useful resource in the control of antibiotic resistance, a key priority for public health.

Beginning with a systematic review, the research will critically evaluate methodologies for behaviour change.  It will  identify methods that can potentially best achieve inclusive public health research with people with learning disabilities in the context of community education.  This initial stage of the research will also evaluate ethical issues and identify potential community groups for inclusion in the later stages of the study. Precise methodology will be defined after these initial stages but it is likely that data collection will include collection of numeric information relating to delivery of the course and “quiz” evaluation data; and a more substantial qualitative phase including non-participant observation during training sessions and semi-structured interviews on completion of the course.

Walmsley, J and Johnson, K (2003) Inclusive Research with People with Learning Disabilities: Past, Present and Futures.  London: Jessica Kingsley

Video Series

Walter Perry the founding Vice Chancellor of the Open University had a vision for the university to be at the cutting edge of both education and research and was instrumental in ensuring that the OU engaged in research in Health and Wellbeing. 50 years on we take a look at some of the exciting work taking place today. ‘Walter was adamant that the university was committed to high-quality...

MK Innovates Festival

The festival showcased Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics excellence in Milton Keynes on 11th October 2019. Open University's Health and Wellbeing Priority Research Area hosted a stand to showcase the breadth and depth of our research. A few pictures posted here from the...

Early Career Research Grant awarded by the AHRC

Dr Victoria Newton, Senior Research Fellow, has been awarded an Early Career Research Grant by the AHRC for a project titled Reproductive Bodylore: the role of vernacular knowledge in women's contraceptive decision-making. The project draws together folklore studies and health research. An approach which is uniquely innovative and novel. The study of vernacular knowledge can tell us much about...

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