University of Stirling postgraduate student Elena Dimova has been awarded the 2015 Scottish Health Pathway ESRC PhD studentship. This studentship recognises the importance of her diabetes research.
Elena explains “My project is based on the idea that there are naturally occurring events in people’s lives, such as illness diagnosis, which may increase people’s motivation to engage in protective health behaviours. These events are referred to as “teachable moments” because they provide an opportunity for intervening and facilitating behaviour change.
“The concept of the teachable moment has intuitive potential but it remains under-theorised. I plan to conceptually develop it by applying it to the field of type 2 diabetes.
“The relatives and partners of type 2 diabetes patients are at increased risk of developing the condition, due to the genetic and environmental causes of type 2 diabetes. The diagnosis may serve as a teachable moment during which the relatives of the diabetic patient increase their perception of risk and review their current behaviour.
“The literature in the field of cancer suggests that when someone is diagnosed with cancer, their family members may change behaviour in an effort to reduce their own risk of developing cancer. However, it is not clear if this is the case for type 2 diabetes.
“I will explore this by conducting interviews with type 2 diabetes patients and their family members and asking them about their experience and its impact on their behaviour. The information from the interviews will help me develop a set of criteria that needs to be met for type 2 diabetes diagnosis to be a teachable moment for the patient’s relatives. I will then explore if the newly identified criteria predicts intention to change behaviour in order to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. If diagnosis of type 2 diabetes in a relative or partner is a teachable moment, then effectiveness of simple interventions could be increased if they are delivered shortly after the diagnosis, when people are already motivated to change behaviour.”
Senior Lecturer Dr Fiona Harris explains “The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) makes approximately 90 PhD awards annually through the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science, an ESRC Doctoral Training Centre. As an interdisciplinary pathway, the Health Pathway has only one studentship to award each year making this a highly competitive and demanding process for applicants and their supervisors. I was absolutely delighted that a Stirling candidate that I supported, as Health pathway representative for Stirling, was successful. Her proposal critically explores the concept of the “teachable moment” and applies it for the first time to understanding behaviour in diabetes self care. The panel were particularly impressed by Elena’s passion and enthusiasm for her topic.”
Dr Josie Evans, Reader in Public Health, is Elena’s supervisor. She comments “Elena has the opportunity within this prestigious PhD studentship to draw upon her psychological knowledge and expertise to inform the development of a public health intervention for people at high risk of type 2 diabetes. The multidisciplinary nature of this project makes it particularly interesting.”