Posts about: Students

Designing and evaluating a nutrition intervention to improve the health and wellbeing of construction workers, by PhD student Magdalena Wronska

11 August 2021

Eating and food are important to people and a relationship between nutrition, health and wellbeing has been well established. Work is a source of social contact and prestige, as well as providing economic opportunities to pursue healthy choices, while work cultures, schedules, and patterns have a major impact on our eating behaviours. My PhD study explores nutrition knowledge and behaviour amongst construction workers in the UK. This is of particular importance, given that approximately 7% of the UK workforce are employed in the construction industry, and also the high level of work-related ill health in this group. Additionally, in construction, long working hours, high pressure working environments, remote site locations and long commutes make healthy food choices challenging.

This project is the first UK study exploring the effectiveness of a workplace intervention on nutrition knowledge and behaviour amongst employees in the construction industry. For my PhD, which is supervised by Dr Margaret Coffey and Dr Anna Robins, I am designing, developing and evaluating a participatory nutrition intervention, with the purpose of improving the health and wellbeing of construction workers. The first (exploratory) phase of the project, informed the next phases, including the questionnaire development, and intervention design. Focus groups with construction workers and managers took place on three different sites exploring their nutritional practices and eating habits, as well as to identify barriers and facilitators to healthy nutritional choices in the workplace. I investigated perceptions of current health strategies and ways to facilitate healthy nutritional choices amongst construction workers.

Photo by Arron Choi on unsplash

These are some of the things that construction workers told me during my research, which illustrate some of the challenges of achieving a healthy diet for workers in this industry:

“They’ll pick up the fizzy drink or an energy drink. So you smash an energy drink, I’ve seen it on other sites, up the river, people don’t even have lunch sometimes, they’ll just have an energy drink just to get through the day, which, yes, that’s suits me but it’s just full of sugar, it’s absolutely packed”

“I’ll maybe go to the Grub’s Up van that comes around and get rice and chicken covered with cheese. It tastes good, but I know it’s slowly killing me”

“By the time I get home I really can’t be bothered cooking”

“If we’re in B&Bs, which several of us have been at various times over this project, there’s nowhere to store food, no fridges or microwaves”

Understanding social media Relationships and Sex Education in a UK context – By Lisa Garwood-Cross

27 July 2021

Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) has been on the UK Governments agenda since Ofsted, the schools regulator, released a report in 2013 titled ‘Not Good Enough Yet: PSHE in schools’i. The report identified that RSE required improvement in a third of primary schools and half of secondary schools visited, with too much emphasis in secondary schools being placed on the mechanics of reproduction, and too little on relationships, the influence of pornography, emotions and understanding healthy sexual relationships. In response to this, the UK Government announced an amendment to the Children and Social Work bill to make RSE compulsory in all secondary schools for the first time, alongside the updating of the statutory teaching guidelines that schools must follow. Following a period of consultation with young people, parents, schools and public health organisations these new guidelines were revealed in 2019 and became compulsory from the 2020/2021 school year which is just now drawing to a close. However last month Ofsted released a rapid review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges that has once again brought Relationships and Sex Education to the forefront. The latest report gives a worrying insight into sexual harassment and assault between young people, and highlights that these issues are far more prevalent than adults may be aware, with girls disproportionately affected. Young people were asked if various types of harmful sexual behaviours happened ‘a lot’ or ‘sometimes’ between people their age. 88% of girls and nearly 49% of boys identified that being sent explicit videos between people their age happened ‘a lot’ or ‘sometimes’, meanwhile 80% of girls and 40% of boys expressed that being put under pressure to provide sexual images of themselves was common. The report also raised concerns of the taking and circulation of photographic or video content between young people without consent. In addition, 64% of girls and 24% of boys reported that unwanted touching happened ‘a lot’ or ‘sometimes’ between people their age, 68% of girls and 27% of boys expressed that feeling pressured to do sexual things they did not want to happened ‘a lot’ or ‘sometimes’, and sexual assault of any kind was noted by 70% of girls and 38% of boys.

Because of this, young people were not happy with the quality of RSE they received and frequently looked elsewhere, as the report states:

Children and young people were rarely positive about the RSHE they had received. They felt that it was too little, too late and that the curriculum was not equipping them with the information and advice they needed to navigate the reality of their lives. Because of these gaps, they told us they turned to social media or their peers to educate each other, which understandably made some feel resentful. As one girl put it, ‘It shouldn’t be our responsibility to educate boys‘.”ii

This report raises significant concerns about RSE not serving the needs of young people, leaving teenagers unprepared for navigating the terrain of relationships and sex. In response to the report the PSHE association called regular RSE lessons vital, saying; ‘we don’t expect pupils to learn algebra or the Norman Conquest via assemblies or awareness days; why should we expect it with consent & respectful relationships?’iii.

Here at the University of Salford, my PhD research is investigating the role that social media RSE content on YouTube plays for young people in seeking and sharing information about relationships and sex. The focus is on understanding the role of the social media influencers who create this content, if they can act as health influencers and if the peer-sharing of this content between young people is a form of peer-education process. The Ofsted report findings suggest young people are already looking to social media and peers to fill voids in their education on sex and relationships, therefore this study provides a closer look at this phenomenon. Health information on YouTube is largely unregulated and in light of the misinformation epidemic on social media during the COVID-19 pandemic there is renewed need to interrogate sources of health information and understand how public health organisations can better partner with social media influencers to provide high-quality digital resources that meet the information needs of young people. Want to be a part of shaping this research?

We are currently recruiting young people aged 13-18 to give their opinions on Social media, influencers and how they seek and share RSE information through an anonymous short 10-minute online survey – the link to the survey is https://salford.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/digital-sre-survey

i OFSTED (2013). Not yet good enough: Personal, social, health and economic education in schools. [online] Ofsted. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/370027/Not_yet_good_enough_personal__social__health_and_economic_education_in_schools.pdf [Accessed 06/07/2021].

ii OFSTED (2021). ‘Review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges’. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/review-of-sexual-abuse-in-schools-and-colleges/review-of-sexual-abuse-in-schools-and-colleges. [Accessed: 06/07/2021]

iii PSHE Association (2021) ‘Ofsted: Harassment rife in schools and RSE given insufficient priority‘ Available at: https://www.pshe-association.org.uk/news-and-blog/blog-entry/ofsted-harassment-rife-schools-and-rse-given [Accessed: 06/07/2021]

Late diagnosis of HIV in women in Greater Manchester, by Sheree Powell (MSc Public Health 2021)

4 July 2021

When I started the Public Health Masters programme, I knew that I was going to do my dissertation on a sexual health related issue. Working in sexual health for several years I knew there were a few issues that needed research. One such topic that concerned me was the low HIV screening uptake from women had taken priority.  The issue seemed small because it had never been discussed during meetings or conferences that I had been to or watched, until I found a document that confirmed that women feel marginalised in HIV related care. The report was named ‘Invisible no longer’ and was authored by the Sophia Forum and Terrance Higgins Trust (2018). It helped me to brainstorm: (1) the aim of my dissertation; (2) how I wanted to collect the data; and (3) who I wanted to interview. During this time, I felt I won a quarter of the battle as I gradually searched for relevant details to eventually discuss with my supervisor.

A few months before any dissertation-related work was required, the lecturers organised a visit from Salford City Council public health to identify: (1) who has a project that may be helpful to them (2) provide a project or idea to those who did not have one. I liked the fact the lecturers were getting the class involved in work that could be used externally, as well as a chance to work with an organisation.

Photo by Lukas Blazek on Unsplash

I remember being excited to start my project as I watched my idea develop over the weeks and months before even writing the first line of my literature review! My aim was to identify the barriers and facilitators of women testing for HIV outside of maternity services in the UK, since evidence demonstrated women were not screening for HIV as much as men, nor were they being offered the test as frequently. Witnessing the lack of HIV testing for women first hand, I had a feeling it could be a result of a mixture of things such as the lack of HIV health promotion for women or women having a low perception of HIV risk as well as stigma. I really wanted to collect evidence to understand why women had such a low testing uptake, but to get there I knew I needed to speak to women who were HIV positive and I knew that could be a challenge since women are rarely approached for HIV related research.

Photo by Joel Muniz  on Unsplash

Understanding what I wanted to achieve was one thing but putting a project together was another! This is why a supervisor is very important. Your supervisor will help you to structure your project to maximise data collection as well as ideas and providing you with the necessary support you need. Don’t forget the library can help you with using journal databases so you can expand your search terms! I found that service incredibly helpful as I tried to focus on research from western countries.

Writing my dissertation started during COVID-19. Working on the frontline I now attempted to balance university work, home life (what was left of it) and work. It was incredibly hard and my headspace was all over the place. My supervisor and the university were incredibly supportive during this time and I am very thankful. As the first wave passed it was time to collect data and I ended up hitting a few hurdles for a number of reasons, but I had my supervisor to support me during this process and I was keen to understand the complexities of women testing for HIV kept    me going.

Finishing the project I could not be more proud of myself, especially completing it in such an uncertain time! I never felt unsupported. Some of my classmates became friends and we supported each other. One thing I was ecstatic about is sending my report to the Sophia Forum and receiving feedback! That is rewarding in itself!  In the end my project did not continue with Salford Council as COVID-19 erupted, but It did not stop me from sending my report to organisations who I felt who be interested to read my findings. I gained further feedback from them also, which ended up being submitted to an All Party Parliamentary Group HIV testing inquiry! Mega happy! Coming to the end of my blogging time, I want to say If you already have a project in mind in the early days of the course (1) brain dump as much things as possible (OneNote helped me to organise my brain chaos) and (2) gradually search for relevant things, at this stage you don’t have to worry about narrowing it down; just have an understanding of the topic, find out if it has been researched already and think about what your project could do differently (if it has previously been researched). Later on in the course you can discuss your project with your supervisor, where you can begin to narrow your ideas if necessary. Some things you may keep and others you may not, but what you have may form a framework for your dissertation, which can be half of the battle—well maybe a quarter of the battle! If you do not have a project I would recommend to find something that will keep your interest! There may be times when you do not want to write and it may sound cliché but my passion kept me going!

Managing the emergency response to COVID-19 in Ghana, by PhD student Lawrence Lartey

16 April 2020

Lawrence Lartey is an Emergency Room physician and is also a University of Salford PhD student in his second year of studies. He has taken a three-month interruption of studies to be part of the team that is responding to Ghana’s COVID-19 crisis. Below, he writes about his experiences and reflects on how his PhD journey so far has helped equip him to deal with his new role during this crisis:

“I am currently at the headquarters of the Ghana Health Service/Disease Surveillance Department helping with the epidemiology of the COVID-19 in Ghana (since January). I am assisting with THE handling of 1,065 passengers under mandatory quarantine, their follow up and laboratory testing. The team is also doing contact tracing of over 25,000 people and managing the 566 positive cases we have in the country as of 13/04/20. Our focus is on data collection, analysis and interpretation to guide government on public health policy decisions and actions. We are also under partial lockdown but those of us on the frontline still go to work 24/7. So far so good.

“I must confess that these past 18 months studying for my PhD has really shaped my thinking and approach to science and research. I can attest that I have improved with my analysis and appreciation of preparations for going into the field to collect data. I have had several opportunities to sit in the strategic Public Health Emergency Operation Center that contributes information to assist the Inter-Ministerial Coordinating Committee and National Coordinating Committee meeting at various levels of their work. I will share my experience from time to time when we started with the Emergency Preparedness plan for the country and now the Emergency response. I am also privileged to have very active and supportive leaders in the Public Health Division of the Ghana Health Service (Director: Dr Badu Sarkodie) and the Disease Surveillance Department (Head: Dr Asiedu-Bekoe). I am grateful for the opportunity they have given me to work with them.

“Considering that I have been a dyed-in-the-wool clinical practitioner, I have now transitioned into Public Health at the national level. The game changer for me has been my journey on the PhD programme. Your constant guidance and directions have opened my mind to many things including teamwork, working with superiors, doing critical analysis, logical reasoning, human behaviour and interests, crisis management, etc.

“Some years back, I would have hesitated to engage with the health system at that level because of gaps in my knowledge and competencies. But now I don’t feel as deficient as before, and in instances where I am not sure of the subject matter, I have used general principles I have learnt to solve the challenges I have encountered. I want to say a big thank you to you and Debs for everything you have done for me and continue to do.”

When the immediate crisis is over, Lawrence plans to return to his PhD research, which is based at Tema General Hospital in Ghana. He is carrying out a study into Emergency Department crowding and its impact on the clinical care and mortality outcomes of stroke patients, and is supervised by Prof Penny Cook and Dr Deborah Robertson.

My Masters Dissertation on tobacco use in new migrant communities By Nisha Kassam

16 January 2020

This is my first time blogging and I hope that this piece helps others in their journeys when starting their dissertation projects. At first, I had no understanding of how big a task writing a dissertation was and how much it would consume my life! From the research methods module, I knew that I wanted to look into my own research area and I wanted to build upon a piece of work that I had worked on from start to finish, so my dissertation journey started from picking a topic area of interest and it ended with a report being presented to Manchester City Council. A couple of weeks after submitting the report to the council, I got an email from the council informing that my work will be used in an upcoming Council guideline. I will be referenced in their work, which I still to this day can’t believe is happening!

From the start of the dissertation module, I buddied with up a course colleague, David Gilbert, and we set out a task schedule and went over all the tasks that we needed to complete for the dissertation. We had the same supervisor so that made it easier for us to bounce ideas off each other and work together, it was also great having someone who was working at the same pace as me. We had a lot of late nights in the library working on our individual projects, with delirium usually happening around 2 am in the morning. We would find ourselves arguing over who our supervisor’s favorite student was and shouting ‘noooooo more!!’ at our computer screens after receiving our feedback, which meant more work for us to do. (Helpful hint: if working in the library take snacks—we always got the munchies around midnight and that helped to fuel us on through the night and also there are food options that can be delivered to the library!!!.)

Onto the practical side of things, it was important for me to collaborate with one of the city councils, as they would help in providing resources and would also help in refining the topic area being researched. I approached Manchester City Council during the research proposal stage of my work and they offered to assist me in the dissertation project. My initial topic area of interest was shisha/waterpipe smoking in Manchester, however, the council had already completed a lot of work on waterpipe/shisha smoking and asked me to look at a new area that was under-researched. So my dissertation project changed direction, looking at tobacco use and smoking in new migrant communities. The council provided me with the resources to complete the research project, insofar as access to migrant communities that could take part in focus groups.

I jumped into the research side of things and started conducting focus groups with different migrant communities. I had given myself a month to collect data and then planned to analyse the data, however, the council asked for more out of the project, they wanted to look at the project from different points of view, so that they could have a complete overview of tobacco use in Manchester. Interviews with primary care professionals were added to the project. I approached primary care professionals that the council recommended, as well as primary care professionals I knew through my work as an Operating Department Practitioner. I used all the contacts available to me in order to make my research project successful. However, adding another aspect to the dissertation project was the greatest challenge as it meant that the project changed from being one dimensional to being a triangulated research project. This meant analysing data from different perspectives and also meant further ethical approval was needed for the interviews, adding more layers to an already complex project.

In terms of findings from the research, I found that alternative tobacco products were popular in new migrant communities, many migrants were using different tobacco products including shisha/waterpipes, and heated tobacco units. These products were becoming more popular due to the flavours on offer and also their price points. However, the research indicated that cigarettes were still the most prominent form of tobacco being used within new migrant communities, although migrants were finding ways to get cheaper cigarettes, thus were importing cigarettes from their home countries or were buying cheaper/counterfeit cigarettes from certain supermarkets or corner shops.

 There were no services specifically for new migrants, and a lack of data collection on new migrants makes it difficult to track their needs. Gaps in the research were presented clearly and I also included recommendations and conclusions in the report, which the council could implement in the future.

Photo by Ander Burdain on Unsplash

So I still can’t believe that this was the outcome of my work, to be referenced in an important guideline for the council that I was collaborating with. Getting the email to say that my work was being used was completely unexpected, but this meant that all the late nights and library visits were totally worth it…

The one thing that I would recommend to future students is to work systematically, plan everything from data collection to data analysis, timetable your plans and make lists. (Lists are super important in detailing everyday details, the guys on my course used to make fun of my list making, but they do work!) 

As cliché as it sounds, doing a dissertation is a real journey, and it presents a lot of challenges along the way, but the key is perseverance and hard work.  I enjoyed every aspect of it, from the data collection to the analysis to write up. Even if it meant sleepless nights and no social life for a few months, it is totally worth it! Even now, as I’m writing this, I am now thinking I want to do more and work on other research areas.

(As a side note, I also want to publicly thank the lecturers on this course, as without them none what I have achieved would have been possible without them and their input.)

Nisha

Public Health Field Trip to the Village of Eyam

28 November 2019

By Lee Houghton

Tuesday 8th October saw our newly bonded MSc Public Health students set forth for the wilds of Derbyshire, on a field trip as part of the Evidence Based Public Health Module. The aim of this field trip was to give us all an understanding of real-world public health in action, to show the development of public health through the ages, and to spend some time together as a group to get to know each other better.

I had never heard of this village and indeed began the trip by repeatedly pronouncing its name wrongly (think Eeeeeem—to rhyme with steam—rather than the two syllables you brain will probably go to initially). A quick Google search identified it as ‘The Plague Village’, which sounded intriguing but I avoided reading much more as I didn’t want to have too many preconceptions.

On the way to the village we stopped at the glorious Chatsworth House to see how the other half lived! I had always wanted to visit here and it did not disappoint, a perfectly grand National Trust property set in the most beautiful gardens and wider landscape, just walking round I got a real feel for how incredible it must have been to live here and the impact an estate like would have on the wider communities in terms of providing work/opportunities to sell/buy produce.

Chatsworth House — as you can see we are a little windswept and rained on here!

We continued on to Eyam to find a more realistic representation of how the majority of people would have lived in the 1600’s (whilst all secretly still wishing we lived at Chatsworth!). As a group we toured the village with tutors pointing out areas of interest. The village suffered terribly when the plague hit and as a community took positive action (potentially to their detriment) to avoid onward passage of the disease.

We saw the homes of those who had passed away and the innovative methods of intervention that the villagers put into place to avoid passing the disease on.

The sad tale of the residents of Rose Cottage
A definite improvement in the weather here! Students at the Boundary Stone

We visited the church and graveyard where a beautiful window has been installed commemorating the sacrifices made by the people of Eyam, and also displays showing some interesting facts and anecdotal stories of individuals…needless to say we were impressed with Margaret Blackwell’s accidental cure!

We were impressed with Margaret Blackwell’s accidental cure!
The beautiful window in the church in Eyam, commemorating the sacrifices made by the villagers

The afternoon of this first day was spent doing group work in the classrooms at the hostel, this involved research and working together to create presentations telling the story of the plague and exploring the implications of the villager’s choices. It was a great opportunity to work together in a relaxed environment, fortified by many cups of tea and the beautiful views from the classroom windows!

Beautiful views from the classroom windows
Fortified by many cups of tea

After dinner in the hostel it was onto the evening activity, which consisted of a rousing game of Pandemic! I had never played this boardgame before and after we were all initially confused by the YouTube video of instructions that never seemed to end, we decided to get on and have a go. Turns out we weren’t too bad and were soon working together to save the world (Disclaimer: we probably need another couple of practice games before we could actually save the world!).

A rousing game of Pandemic

Day 2 saw us back in the classroom working in groups to look at the modern-day issues around Plague, we were really surprised to find out that there are still significant pockets of it about, and to look at government and health agencies approach to tackling this. It was great way of looking at global inequalities and their impact on population health.

After lunch there was just time for look round Eyam’s museum which has so many interesting displays and resources on plague in the village. It was a useful way of consolidating what we had learned and seeing some effective visual representations of the spread and reach of disease, including really personal stories.

Eyam museum
17th Century Plague doctor with protective suit (waxed fabric overcoat, a mask with glass eye openings and a beak shaped nose, typically stuffed with herbs, straw, and spices)

The trip was a great success and we found it so useful to see public health in action through history. It was a great opportunity to spend some quality time together and definitely helped to bond us as a group, which will hopefully stand us in good stead for our next assignment where group work is vital.

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.