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Posts about: Students

Reflection around group work on the MSc Public Health by Robyn McCarthy

8 May 2018

How do you feel when you get asked to work as a group on an assessed piece of work? Are you filled with enthusiasm or a sudden sinking feeling? Our MSc Public Health cohort is an impressive mix of people. We are all different, ages, professions, and nationalities, with differing undergraduate degrees. Early on in the course we had an overnight field trip where we bonded over getting drenched in the Peak district, which helped us get to know each other and we are quite a friendly chatty group.

I started the MSc in Public Health after 15-years out of education: my distant memories of group work were vaguely negative, so, when we were given our first assignment for the Global Health Module as group presentation I didn’t know what to expect. I was asked by three of my course mates to be the fourth person in their group. Our assignment brief was to choose a global public health challenge and give a twenty-minute presentation about it. I was really struggling to come up with a good idea but wanted to do something a bit out of the ordinary.

The first thing we did as a group was to set up a chat group on the social networking platform WhatsApp, so that we could start discussing possible topic choices. One person suggested looking at tuberculosis and another suggested looking at the link between depression in young people and social media. When the two of us without a suggestion then picked which we preferred, the problem was that still left us with a 50/50 split. We discussed flipping a coin, but instead we took both ideas to our course leader, hoping she would choose for us. After discussing each topic, she agreed that the topics were both good ideas and wished us luck with deciding. So, in pairs we then did a pitch of our preferred topic in the form of a quick essay plan. We found it easier to put together the outline-plan for the social media idea, so that’s the one we picked.

One person naturally became team leader, I’ve heard of storming norming and performing, but we just seemed to get along from the start. Maybe it was because we had similar approaches to learning. The four of us are quite laid-back, which meant we were flexible and positive, but with interest in the topic and motivated to put together a good presentation; this helped as it meant we were all prepared to put the hours in. Being quite confident, I really enjoyed working with a team leader who listened and checked everyone was on the same page before making decisions, and as someone who is prone to putting my foot in it, I was pleased to find everyone was open to giving and receiving feedback. As a group we all had work or childcare commitments outside of the course, and long journeys in to campus; at one point we even got snowed off, so we had brainstorming sessions with only three of us but always kept the missing person in the loop via WhatsApp.

The team leader set up a spreadsheet for references, so we could each put in papers as we read them – this was useful, as we could easily go back later to find information. Each one of us managed to find something no one else had. Discovering an alarming lack of evidence of an actual causal link between social media and depression made the project more challenging.

We still had to try to adhere to the marking scheme whilst showing critical analysis of the data. Just to be sure that we were heading in the right direction, we got further feedback from our course leader. We then set up a Google Slides shared file, so we could all work on it at once, and divided up the number of slides and worked on one section each. We then discussed the order and moved items around, and wrote rough drafts of our scripts. The team leader also booked rooms, so we had time to practice the presentation together; for all four of us to be there we had to fit this in between lectures, an hour here and there. But this meant we could run through several times giving feedback on each other’s script and getting our timing accurate, and just about have time to brainstorm possible questions from the audience.

When we came to give our presentation, we remembered almost all of our lines and finished on time. We congratulated each other and talked about how much we had enjoyed working together.  It got me thinking, for such a mix of people, is there something we all have in common that helped, or was it that we were able to “encourage an atmosphere of openness to diversity and new ideas” when working collaboratively together (Savin-Baden & Major, 2004, p. 77)?  Being able to work well in a team is an important skill not only in an academic environment but looking forward to our future career paths. It would be interesting to look further into the theory behind what makes working in groups productive and enjoyable, but for now there’s another assignment waiting to be written.

The transition from MSc student to a PhD student, at The University of Salford by Abolanle Gbadamosi

27 February 2018

The first transition for me was moving from my home country, Nigeria, to England to study – it was very daunting to begin with. The initial decision to come to England to study for a Masters was very different from the decision I made to stay to further my studies and start a PhD. When I came to England to study for my Masters, I wanted to gain further skills and knowledge – the decision was based on the challenge to get better academically, and in turn to inform my future career path. The decision to further my education and embark on a PhD was based on the skills and knowledge I had acquired during my Masters degree. The wide range of resources available to students to make learning convenient at the University of Salford was beyond expectations. As a postgraduate student, I had unlimited access to an extensive range of books, e-books, journal articles, and government publications to help me study, as well as request for articles that are not licensed to the University.

The major influence in deciding to apply for a PhD was based on the final semester of my Masters programme, when I conducted a research study for my dissertation. The research study examined the associations between sitting at work and mental wellbeing. I loved the idea of looking into a problem and trying to find out as much as I could about it, and looking into something that there was little previous research on. That’s the joy of being a researcher (although it is not always as simple as it sounds!).

The progression from a postgraduate taught degree to a postgraduate research degree is a big step in one’s education, because the doctorate degree is seen as the highest level of educational achievement. The move from a ‘regimented and structured’ life of a taught programme to the ‘unstructured’ life of a PhD can be scary. This is because the structure of deadlines and assignment submissions is no longer there – you have to carefully plan your own time and set your own targets. It can be quite overwhelming at times, sitting in an office every day of the week, rather than attending classes for two to four hours every day. I am in an office with other PhD students, many of whom are working in studies that are not related to my field – this can make the PhD journey lonely at times, but also interesting because I get to learn about things outside of my own area of research.

When I started my PhD, all of a sudden I was exposed to all these opportunities and changes. The PhD involves independent research and that means a lot of input from me as a researcher – like I said, it can be quite scary if you face it all alone. The University has provided various workshops and study skills sessions to help me adapt to the system, without feeling too overwhelmed! Also, there is an allocated staff member to stand in as a personal tutor to help discuss any issues that may affect one’s studies. I have made use of these resources and intend to keep making use of them. So far so good, it’s been an interesting journey and I hope it will get even better!

In the first year of Abolanle’s PhD, she has had the work from her Masters study accepted at the International Conference on Ambulatory Monitoring of Physical Activity and Movement (see poster), and has recently submitted work from her first PhD study to the International Society for Physical Activity and Health Congress.

Association between sitting at work and mental wellbeing

MSc Public Health Trip to Eyam – October 2017

20 December 2017

As part of the extended induction programme, the MSc Public Health students took part in a two-day field trip that was designed to provide an immersive experience for students to orientate towards the discipline (with a real word example of a past public health situation), get to know each other, form friendship groups, and begin to work in teams.

Students learned about the control of an infectious disease in history, and one village’s unique approach to dealing with the plague crisis. This was designed to enable students to learn lessons that can be applied to infectious disease today.

The field trip took us to Eyam, a small village in the Derbyshire Dales within the Peak District. In 1665, the village experienced an outbreak of the bubonic plague, and the villagers chose to isolate themselves to prevent the spread of infection. During the outbreak, 260 villagers died (double the rate of those who died in London from the bubonic plague).

On day one, the students took part in a guided transect walk around the village to learn about the history of the village, some of the key places, and the decisions that were made during the outbreak of the bubonic plague. The great British weather made this a very wet two hours, but a few hardy souls made it to the boundary stone, and we all learned a lot along the way about how the village dealt with the situation.

‘This event has brought public health to life in terms of location of historical plague being very real with houses in the village, the well etc.”


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upon warming up with cuppa soup, teas, and coffees back at the Youth Hostel, the students started completing more detailed maps in groups to present to the judges (the lecturing staff), and provide their overview of the village based on the transect walk. As you can see the judging was intense!

 

The final activity of day one involved an outbreak game: could our students and staff survive being infected by those who were the source of the outbreak? Our very own Margaret Coffey was infected twice, but was deemed allowed to stay in the Youth Hostel, once the class had worked out who were the sources of the outbreak, and how it had spread around to those infected.

‘The outbreak activity was a lot of fun! It helped us understand how infections spread and the concept of having carriers who come into contact with a specific infection but do not get sick’

 

On the second day, those who were unable to join us, and were based back at the University, carried out similar activities to those who were in Eyam. The students were split into groups to create a presentation related to either: the data and risk factors related to the plague outbreak in Eyam; or the modern spread of the plague, looking at Madagascar as a current case-study. Having a student from Madagascar on the trip with us really brought this work home for everyone, with their explanation of some of the measures that were currently in place.

‘The group work on the Plague worked very well, especially presenting in the order that we did – historical plague to current issues re: global plague. Definitely a learning experience’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, we finished off with a trip to the local museum to round up all the learning before people headed back to Salford on the coach. Despite the weather, we all had a great time getting to know each other, learning about Eyam, and thinking about how this relates to modern Public Health.

‘I feel like I know more people and am more relaxed around them’.

‘It has helped us get together. I think we will work together more effectively’.

The trip received overwhelmingly positive feedback, with 68% reported their experience on the trip as ‘excellent’ and 26% as ‘good’. Participants especially valued the chance to get to know each other.

‘I feel more confident now about my MSc programme and want to give my best in order to succeed’

‘I believe I am 100% ready to study this course. I have developed a better understanding and a new love for it. I know it’s going to be an enjoyable course. Looking forward to it’

We hope you will be able to join the MSc Public Health course in the future and come with us to learn more about the history of public health, and experience some of the English countryside. You even get to stay in a mini castle for a night that is owned by the Youth Hostel Association.

 

Public Health Conference: Social prescribing, social movements, shaping attitudes and behaviours (Friday, 17th November 2017)

14 December 2017

This blog post is written by four of our current MSc Students – Aneela Khanum, Cynthia Poolay Mootien, Gloria Serwah Asare & Ella Train

The public health conference on ‘social prescribing, social movements, shaping attitudes and behaviours’ organised by the Salford Professional Development team and the University of Salford, was chaired by Professor Penny Cook, and centred around finding innovative and alternative ways to treat and care for patients outside of healthcare settings.

Chris Easton, from Tameside Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, opened the talk by discussing the implementation of a system wide approach to self-care. He stressed the need to change the public’s perception and behaviour towards clinicians and hospitals, and for more instituitional integration, which will only be successful if both the health and social needs of patients are considered. He also pointed out that more emphasis should be placed on stimulating a fundamental paradigm shift between the people and their communities, as well as the healthcare system. The issues brought up by Chris showed an interesting perspective of the healthcare system that challenges clinical pathways to have self-management at their core, and would encourage doctors to take a more holistic approach when treating their patients.

Alan Higgins, Director of Public Health, Oldham Council, discussed the importance of health as a social movement to empower patients and citizens, strengthen communities, improve health and wellbeing, and eventually moderate the rising demands on the NHS. Another speaker at the event was Siobhan Farmer, a Public Health Consultant for Salford City Council, who talked about the importance of influencing population health by focusing on education in early years, including more person-centred approaches to health and lifestyle behaviours. She further explained the role of Salford City council in health and social care, which gave us further insight on the many health inequalities present in Salford.

Variation in Life Expectancy – Male life expectancy ranges from 81.9 years in Worsley to 69.8 years in Pendleton
(Source: Salford City Council)

The event was also a great networking opportunity, where we met many professionals from various fields in the public health sector. We had the privilege of talking to Professor John Middleton, President of the UK Faculty of Public Health, following his inspiring talk about encouraging an asset-based approach to improving health and wellbeing through social prescribing. The various other speakers at the conference also advocated for a change in the healthcare system, with a more comprehensive community-centred approach, where social prescribing could help change and shape attitudes and behaviours towards health and wellbeing.

 

 

 

 

The conference ended with a highly inspirational presentation by Chrissie Wellington, Global Lead for Health and Wellbeing Parkrun, and Doctor Simon Tobin a General Practitioner with strong ties to Parkrun, who both stressed the benefits of exercise and outdoor activities for better health. Dr. Tobin emphasised the need for doctors to take a more social approach to improving patients’ healthcare, instead of over-diagnosing and overprescribing without first exploring the hopes, wishes and needs of the patients. The conference concluded with a challenging note, to not only change other people’s attitudes and behaviours towards healthcare, but to also change our own stance on health and social prescribing, for better health and wellbeing in the long-term.

The conference was a wonderful opportunity, to meet public health professionals and academics, as well as be part of an informative forum with many speakers from various fields in public health. Our sincere thanks go to Professor Penny Cook, Dr. Margaret Coffey, Dr. Anna Cooper-Ryan, and Alex Clarke-Cornwell for organising and promoting a very thought-provoking and worthwhile conference.

University of Salford and Teams4U Partnership: Uganda

11 December 2017

With its numerous and diverse cultures, Winston Churchill wrote “Uganda is truly the Pearl of Africa” and went on to say “The Kingdom of Uganda is a fairy tale. The scenery is different, the climate is different and most of all, the people are different from anything elsewhere to be seen in the whole range of Africa….what message I bring back…concentrate on Uganda”. Over one hundred years later this is still true, and Uganda, relatively untouched by tourism, retains a taste of Authentic Africa.

Children at a primary school in Kumi

The University of Salford has been working with charity Teams4U for over eight years. Recently, the University’s partnership with Teams4U has been developed to allow students to gain hands-on experience of delivering a public health intervention programme in rural Uganda, learning how to break down cultural barriers and to communicate with the people they serve in order to make the programme a success. Students on our BSc Public Health and Health Promotion course have the opportunity to take a subsidised ten day trip to Uganda (the student pays £200 towards the cost).

The Teams4U Uganda programme is the brainchild of honorary Salford graduate Dr Dave Cooke, who wondered if physical activity could help primary school children to achieve better results at school. Since it began, the programme has evolved and changed to tackle some of the underlying issues that lock communities in a cycle of poverty.

Small changes make a big difference

The experience of handing a football to a child that has never touched a ball is something that is difficult to describe. Before the programme began, children in rural primary schools in the Kumi district of Uganda didn’t have PE lessons; with class sizes at over 100 children per teacher, finding an activity that they could all take part in was difficult. To make matters worse, the budget for most schools is just £1.50 per child for the whole year, meaning they can’t afford basic sports equipment like footballs. Often the schools aren’t funded at all – the money just ‘disappears’.

Playing the team games with Teams4U

The concept of the programme is simple, but the impact on the children is profound – headteachers have even said they felt inspired to change the way they teach as a result. However, this is where students can get involved in vital research, as many questions still need answering: does the experience of the teachers of the programme change their attitudes to physical activity? Does the donation of balls for football, netball and other activities have an impact on physical activity and sports in the schools?

Breaking the cycle of poverty

The programme also revealed other barriers to education that children in the community face. While both girls and boys are often kept off school to help out at home or work in the fields, girls in particular are not always encouraged to attend school. To add to this, we found that a big problem keeping girls from school was the lack of feminine hygiene products and limited access to water, meaning that they were missing up to a quarter of their schooling.

Keen to break the cycle of poverty where children drop out of school, girls have babies very young and have large families that they can’t support, the team set up two separate programmes to tackle these issues. The first, ‘Develop with Dignity’, provides washable pads for girls to use, meaning they now feel comfortable going to school on their period. Secondly, we organised educational sessions with parents, children and community leaders to discuss the importance of staying in school.

Girls receiving washable menstrual pads and underwear

Again, research is needed to understand exactly how these interventions work: does the intervention increase school attendance, for girls in particular? Are parents and the community more aware of the importance of education?

Join a trip to Uganda

You can join in and help run the sports and Develop with Dignity programmes. If you come as part of the BSc Public Health and Health Promotion, you can also help us do research to evaluate the programme.

Our volunteers often find that while they go to Uganda with the intention of serving, they end up gaining more than they give: the experience of sharing time with children who get so much joy from the simple gift of your time and attention.

Find out more

Watch this video about the University of Salford’s public health and health promotion opportunities in Uganda

To find out more about the other public health and health promotion work that the University of Salford and Teams4U have carried out in Uganda, go to our related blog posts

Find out more about Teams4U and Develop with Dignity

MSc Public Health Facebook Live

5 July 2017

If you’re interested in studying MSc Public Health  at the University of Salford, join us on Facebook on Wednesday 12 July to see our live interview with the Programme Leads and Admissions Tutor from our MSc Public Health course. Dr Anna Cooper and Dr Margaret Coffey will answer questions about the course, the modules you will study and how it could help with your career.

For a limited time we are also offering two students the opportunity to receive a 50% reduction in the course fees for the MSc Public Health (closing date Monday 7th August). You can find out more about this on our website

The Facebook Live session starts at 3.00pm (GMT) on Wednesday 12 July, simply join our Facebook page and watch. If you aren’t able to join us, the session will be recorded for you to watch at a time that suits you.

Brief review of Making Every Contact Count conference – Health Education England

15 February 2016

By Anna Cooper, Jess Brooke and Penny Cook

On the 27th January over 200 people congregated at the University of Salford for the MECC conference run by Health Education England with support from Public Health England. The conference started off with a welcome and a bit of a dance (as we are told is tradition in some other conferences), but it proved to set the scene for what was an informative but also welcoming event. Sir Stephen Moss in his forward outlines MECC as ‘enables the systematic delivery of consistent and simple lifestyle advice, helping people to make positive changes that will improve their health and wellbeing.’

To start there was a bit of a race through some of the evidence, policy and local level examples of MECC. Shirley Cramer outlined the definition of the wider workforce and next steps, but also the importance of the workers’ situation in the community that they serve, while Sir Stephen Moss talked about changing the culture to embed MECC into everyday practice. Dr Charles Alessi reiterated the important message of ‘don’t let there be more missed opportunities when we could be doing something’. Dr Paul Chadwick reminded us that we need to reflect on our own behaviour and motivations as health practitioners, since MECC relies on us having the confidence to raise sensitive issues. A challenge of MECC is gaining consistent evaluation to explore the impact due to the diverse nature and content on the brief interventions; what is clear is that it can impact communities – as shown by Professor Kate Arden in Wigan.

The keynote session was followed with presentations on examples of tools kits, those produced at both a local and national level. There were examples provided by Claire Cheminade, the Public Health Wider Workforce lead in Wessex and Sally James the Public Health Workforce Specialist for the west midlands, which showed how MECC is embedded across all areas right from training of the new workforce. Nigel Smith and Mandy Harling used the session to help launch the ‘MECC: quality checklist for training resources’ and ‘MECC: implementation guide’, developed by Public Health England and Health Education England.

On breaking out for the session before and after lunch there was a chance to hear about more examples, but also look at settings and behaviour change, to help with understanding the theory and practice. During lunch there was an opportunity to take a seat in the MECC cinema where a short film was shown which illustrated different people who have undertaken MECC training and put it into practice successfully. In the afternoon, one of the workshops, titled ‘NICE Guidelines and Behaviour Change Approaches’ was led by Dr Paul Chadwick. This included an interesting lecture and some useful group work. It enabled attendees to consider how their own behaviour and beliefs could impact on the implementation of MECC in their setting.

As part of @SalfordPH involvement throughout the day, eight of the MSc public health students (as pictured below), were on hand to support the event staff and delegates with their day. Additionally Penny and Anna chaired the initial sessions around “what the system is saying about MECC and why it is important” and “Implementing MECC”.

Volunteer MSc Students

This also provided our students with the chance to hear from some leading experts in this area and be able to hear examples of how what we talk about in lectures relates to worked examples. Our thanks go to each of the students for taking the time to support the day.

Although MECC is going through a difficult time in many local areas in relation to funding, it is clear from this day there are many people who carry out the premise of MECC in their everyday working and it is something we can all be more aware of doing.

Double jeopardy: childhood neglect in children with FASD

29 January 2016

Alcohol and pregnancy are a dangerous mix. The physical effects of alcohol on a developing foetus are well known and potentially devastating. It is known to impact physical development – causing stunted growth, craniofacial abnormalities, reduced head and brain size, sight and hearing problems, and limb and organ defects. Foetal alcohol exposure causes problems in cognitive and psychological functions such as learning, speech and language, memory, attention, inhibition, social cognition, planning, motor skills, attachment, and behaviour. The name given to the range of outcomes caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol is foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).

Double jeopardy: adding childhood neglect

Children who are exposed to alcohol prenatally are also at risk of what has been described as a case of double jeopardy: they are much more likely to experience adverse environmental experiences during the first months and years of development. These experiences can include neglect of daily care, abandonment, and emotional, sexual and physical abuse. The effects of such experiences can compound the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure, as they impact development in a similar way. Maltreatment such as neglect and abuse, especially if this is prolonged and lasts beyond the first six months of life, can have a significant impact on attachment, cognitive, psychological and social development and even physical growth.

By D Sharon Pruitt [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By D Sharon Pruitt [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

To make matters worse, children who suffer maltreatment during early childhood miss out on normal attachment development. This can seriously impact their own parenting skills as adults, and lead to dysfunctional attachment behaviour if and when they become parents themselves. Those who suffer from foetal alcohol spectrum disorders are more likely to develop alcohol misuse issues, and are more likely to be involved in risky sexual behaviours. This can increase the risk of unplanned pregnancies, and so the cycle can be self-perpetuating.

Forthcoming research on FASD and neglect

The effects of a) prenatal alcohol exposure and b) early childhood maltreatment are well documented, but there is a surprising lack of research into their combined effects. My research will address this gap, first of all by conducting a systematic review into all published studies into the combined effects of prenatal alcohol exposure and early childhood maltreatment. I am currently writing up the results of this review for publication. It found only six articles on the subject, four of which used experimental methods to assess the impact of both issues. The main finding of these four articles is that speech and language deficits are more likely in children with both issues, compared to children with one or the other.

PTEH1512  © www.philtragen.com

PhD STudent Alan Price (PTEH1512 © www.philtragen.com)

There are several other aspects of cognitive development that are yet to be addressed in this population, and so the next stage of my research will assess deficits in social cognition and executive function – two of the most prominent areas of deficit in children with foetal alcohol spectrum disorders and in children with a history of maltreatment. I aim to study these deficits using a combination of caregiver reports and behavioural tasks conducted in a lab at the University of Salford. I am also planning to incorporate a measure of brain activity using functional near infra-red spectroscopy (fNIRS) – a non-invasive technology that uses light waves on the near infra-red spectrum to measure blood movement in the cerebral cortex – the outer layer of the brain. This technology is especially useful in samples of young children, and this will be the first time fNIRS will have been used in this population.

I am currently in the process of applying for ethical approval, and hope to begin data collection soon.

By Salford University PhD student Alan Price

Twitter: @alandavidprice1

Email: A.D.Price1@edu.salford.ac.uk