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Meta-ethnography: interpretations of interpretations of George Noblit

This post is my take on a methodology seminar at Stirling University and a public lecture in Edinburgh where Professor George Noblit asked ‘How qualitative (or interpretive or critical) is qualitative synthesis, and what can we do about this?’ What are we talking about? Primary qualitative research in its many forms can help us understand […]

This is a re-post of Avril Nicoll’s blog, first published here: Meta-ethnography: interpretations of interpretations of George Noblit — Speech & Language Therapy in Practice #speechmag

New Year, New Research Horizons

Helen Cheyne

Professor Helen Cheyne

It is hard to believe that it is already a year since the results of REF 2014 were published, with good news of a very positive performance from the School of Health Sciences and colleagues across the University.  While we enjoyed some brief time for reflection on our REF success 2015 has seen lots of hard work and plenty of research success in the School.

Two very recent grant successes are examples of the range of innovation and international engagement of school research.  Prof Pat Hoddinott and Dr Stephan Dombrowski have been awarded funding from NIHR Public Health Research Programme for “Feasibility study of how best to engage obese men in narrative SMS (short message system) and incentive interventions for weight loss, to inform a future effectiveness and cost-effectiveness trial” with a total award value of £491K.    Prof Linda Bauld was awarded a British Council Researcher Links Workshop Grant with Uruguay “Implementation science applied to maternal health: tobacco and alcohol use in pregnancy”, with an award of £34K.

2016 will be a very exciting year for research in the school.  The integration of the School of Health Science and School of Sports offers lots of potential for working together in new research directions as well as adding considerably to our existing programmes of research.  The research integration working group is currently discussing the research synergies between the Schools and the distinctive strengths of the integrated School, essentially what research we would want the new School to be known for nationally and internationally.  So far have produced lots of exciting ideas with three main broad areas where synergies in research across the Schools are clear.  These are:

  1. Lifestyle and behaviour change to health and wellbeing
  2. Physiological mechanisms underlying behavioural health interventions
  3. Policy and public organisations/ policy and implementation

Getting together to talk about research with our colleagues from School of Sport has already generated some great ideas for research projects and hopefully we will see some of these come to fruition in 2016.

123RF-44614042_lA major initiative that will be initiated in early 2016 will be internal peer review of all research funding applications.  While there have been various procedures for internal peer review across the School for some time these will be formalised in line with the University-wide policy for internal peer review early next year.   The peer review system aims to contribute to an increase in the quality and success of grant funding applications across the School.  I hope that all staff working on funding applications will benefit both from having their proposals peer reviewed and from acting as peer reviewers for colleagues.

Finally, the school will benefit from additional support from Carol Johnstone, Research Development Manager, who will have an increased focus on our School in 2016.  The support we currently get from Carol and her team is invaluable and I am delighted that we will see more of her next year.

Professor Helen Cheyne, Director of Research, School of Health Sciences
17 December 2015

Survey of new mothers highlights improvements

Photo of Prof Helen Cheyne

Prof Helen Cheyne

The state of maternity care in Scotland has been examined by University of Stirling researchers working with the Scottish Government.

The national report Having a baby in Scotland 2015: Listening to Mothers documents the story of more than 2000 new mothers.

Produced in partnership by the Scottish Government and Stirling’s Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professions Research Unit (NMAHP RU) – it shows women are accessing care earlier in pregnancy with significantly more contacting a midwife first when they are pregnant.

Communication between women and maternity care staff appears to be good with most women reporting that they were listened to, spoken to in ways that they could understand and involved as much as they wanted in decisions about their care. The high level of trust women had in staff was evident, in particular during labour and birth.

Areas where care could be improved – particularly in relation to mental health – were highlighted, based on women’s responses to the survey.

Around one third of women felt that they were not given all the advice they needed about emotional changes they might experience and around one quarter were not given information about who to contact for advice about emotional changes if they needed it.

Additionally 44 percent of women said they did not get enough information to help them decide where to have their baby and 24 percent said they were not offered a choice about where to have their baby.

Report author Helen Cheyne, midwife and Professor of Midwifery Research in the NMAHP Research Unit at the University of Stirling said: “One of the most striking findings was around women’s mental health in the six weeks following birth. A recent report shows that almost a quarter of women who died between six weeks and one year following birth did so from mental health related causes. It is essential that all women and their families know the signs and symptoms of mental health problems following birth and who to contact if these occur.

“The report recommends that NHS Boards should examine whether local maternity and perinatal mental health services meet current best practice recommendations to support maternal mental health. All midwives, health visitors and medical staff caring for pregnant and postnatal women should undertake recognised training to ensure there is support for mothers who experience mental health problems.”

The report from the NMAHP Research Unit concludes with six recommendations including the appointment of post-natal care champions in every maternity hospital, ensuring one to one care of women by skilled midwives throughout labour and birth remains a priority and that all women should have choices about where their antenatal and postnatal care and place of birth happens.

Media enquiries to Corrinne Gallagher, Communications Officer, on 01786 466 687

15 December 2015

Sensory Impairment and Pharmaceutical Care

Dr Leah Macaden, Dr Annetta Smith and Dr Kathleen Stoddart are involved in SIPA’s Sensory Impairment and Pharmaceutical Care research.

Funded by the Chief Scientist’s Office, it looks at the question “What are the needs of older people receiving polypharmacy?”

Full info here

Teenage Cancer Trust: Cancer Education sessions can help to save lives – University of Stirling Research

Basic CMYK“Research demonstrating the value and impact of our vital education work has been published in Pycho-Oncology, the Journal of Psychological, Social and Behavioural Dimensions of Cancer.

“Last year, Teenage Cancer Trust and the Scottish government’s Detect Cancer Early Programme commissioned research into the impact of educating young people about cancer. The research was evaluated by The University of Stirling concluded that our school-based cancer education sessions are an effective and impactful way to improve awareness of the signs of cancer in young people, improve knowledge of cancer prevention, and improve communication about cancer.”

Check out the full story on their web page:

1 December 2015

Youth Alcohol Intervention – Jonathan Bryce writes about his award-winning research


Jonathan Bryce, MRes Graduate

Jonathan Bryce graduates from the University of Stirling this Friday 27 November with a MRes – Health Research.

He has been awarded a University Integrating Research Into Learning Award for his Youth Alcohol Intervention dissertation research. Jonathan writes:

What was it about?

I wrote the dissertation as part of the Master of Research in Health Research course at the University of Stirling. The dissertation was made up of three parts – a funding proposal, an ethics application and a journal article.

The overall topic of the work was based around investigating the effectiveness of an intervention to reduce harmful or hazardous alcohol consumption in young people aged 16 – 24 years old. The main component of the proposal was exploring the use of a conversational style of discussing alcohol use with young people. The aim would be to do this in a way that is non-confrontational and that focuses on strengthening the motivation of the individual to make changes about their alcohol use.

Why was it needed?

The motivation behind the choice of topic follows from high rates of alcohol consumption and alcohol-related ill health in Scotland over recent decades. Data shows that approximately one-third of women and almost half of men regularly drink at levels that exceed government guidelines.

Young people also have high rates of harmful or hazardous drinking, meaning they can be exposed short-term risks such as being a victim of crime or injuring themselves. Late adolescent drinking has also been linked to dependence in later life as well as premature death.

How would it be carried out?

The research proposed was designed for use in an informal youth work setting.  Examples of these may include drop-in or outreach services offering support to young people on issues such mental or sexual health, education and careers advice.

Building upon previous research that found that brief alcohol interventions were both acceptable and feasible for use in informal youth settings, interventions would be delivered by youth workers opportunistically. These would then allow the youth worker to engage the young person in a short conversation about their alcohol use and, where appropriate, setting goals such as reducing the quantity or frequency of alcohol the consume.

How will it improve/help practice?

If found to be effective, the intervention has the potential to improve current practice in youth work settings by providing a tool for youth workers that is evidence-based and which can lead to better outcomes for the young people they are in contact with. The most immediate impact is likely to be consideration and discussion about the young person’s alcohol use. Long-term benefits might include improved health and well-being and reductions in alcohol-related ill health.

Jonathan Bryce, MRes Health Graduate
24 November 2015

UK Government’s alcohol policies weaker than devolved nations – new research

Image of alcoholic drinksThe UK Government’s alcohol policies are weaker than those implemented by the devolved nations, a landmark report from the Universities of Stirling and Sheffield has found.

Alcohol policies across the four UK nations vary widely in the extent to which they are grounded in scientific evidence, with political considerations appearing to have significant bearing, the research shows.

Policies from the UK Government and devolved administrations were reviewed against recommendations from Health First, the independent expert-devised UK alcohol strategy, in the first such audit of its kind.  Overall strategy, pricing, marketing and availability of alcohol were amongst the areas examined.

Scotland had the strongest approach overall, seeking to implement the most evidence-based policies, working to clear outcomes, and with a taskforce in place to monitor and evaluate the Scottish Government’s alcohol strategy.

By contrast, the UK Government did not support the most effective policies, made inconsistent use of evidence, and was the most engaged with the alcohol industry.

While Wales and Northern Ireland took strong positions in areas such as taxation and restrictions on young drivers, they have fewer legislative powers than the Scottish Parliament.

The report was co-authored by Dr Niamh Fitzgerald, at the University of Stirling and Colin Angus at the University of Sheffield.

Dr Niamh Fitzgerald, Lecturer in Alcohol Studies, said: “Alcohol policy at UK Government level is in disarray, with it choosing to reduce taxation despite evidence that consumption and alcohol-related harms will increase as a result, putting even greater pressure on NHS and emergency services.

“In contrast to the UK Government, the devolved administrations – especially Scotland – are taking steps to address the widespread harms due to alcohol, recognising that they are a ‘whole population’ issue. All four nations, however, engage in partnership with the alcohol industry, despite clear conflicts of interest and its history of failure to support those policies most likely to work.”

Colin Angus, from the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group, said: “A clear illustration of the gap in effective policy across the UK relates to the marketing of alcohol. The devolved administrations have indicated support for mandatory action on product labelling, but the UK government has favoured self-regulation which has proven ineffective, with over 40 percent of products on the shelf still failing to meet the industry’s own best practice guidelines.

“On alcohol advertising, a reserved matter, the devolved administrations have called for stronger regulation to protect children, but this approach has been rejected by the former UK coalition government. The Scottish Government is currently updating its alcohol strategy while the other devolved nations continue to progress evidence-based policies to reduce alcohol harms. It may be that they will call for greater powers to go it alone in bringing in effective policy options, if Westminster is not prepared to act.”

Peter O’Neill, Evidence Exchange Manager at the Alliance for Useful Evidence, which commissioned the report, said: “Devolution in the UK provides opportunities for exchange of evidence and learning about what works through experimentation with different policies across the four nations. This report calls on administrations to support such learning, by engaging openly and maturely with the alcohol policy evidence, being honest about reasons for policy decisions, and robustly evaluating policy initiatives. Unfortunately, the report also suggests that alcohol policy may sometimes be underpinned by ideology more than by evidence, and is likely to be less effective as a result.”

Four Nations: How Evidence-based are Alcohol Policies and Programmes Across the UK? has been presented to representatives of the four administrations as part of the work of the British-Irish Council, which meets later this month.

Media enquiries to David Christie, Senior Communications Officer, on 01786 466 653

Background information

  • The report was co-authored by Dr Niamh Fitzgerald, Lecturer in Alcohol Studies at the University of Stirling’s Institute for Social Marketing, and Research Fellow Colin Angus of the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group, at the University of Sheffield. Both Universities are members of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies.
  • The Report design was funded by the Alcohol Health Alliance.

UK Centre for Tobacco & Alcohol Studies
The UK Centre for Tobacco & Alcohol Studies (UKCTAS) is one of the six UK Clinical Research Collaboration (UKCRC) Public Health Research Centres of Excellence. The UKCTAS is a collaborative network of 13 universities (12 in the UK, 1 in New Zealand) and receives funding from the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Economic and Social Research Council, Medical Research Council and the National Institute for Health Research under the auspices of the UK Clinical Research Collaboration.

Health First
The report Health First: An evidence-based alcohol strategy for the UK was published in March 2013 by the University of Stirling setting out for the first time a series of  recommendations to tackle the harm caused by excess drinking across the UK. The strategy was developed by a group of experts independent from government and the alcohol industry, under the auspices of the Alcohol Health Alliance and is supported by over 70 organisations.

The Alliance for Useful Evidence
The Alliance for Useful Evidence is an open network which champions the use of evidence in decision making for social policy and practice.  The Evidence Exchange project aims to increase the use of and demand for evidence between the four UK jurisdictions