I am a Professor of Behavioural Sciences and Health in the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit. My main research interests lie in the areas of obesity, mental health and behaviour change, in particular, the maintenance of behaviour change. I have methodological interests in randomised controlled trials and in the development and evaluation of complex interventions, as well as mixed methods approaches (using quantitative and qualitative research methods) and process evaluation. I am also interested in the design and delivery of interventions via the web and new technologies.
I am currently undertaking a 5-year MRC/University of Glasgow Senior Fellowship. The fellowship is focussing on two areas: 1) the physical health of people with mental health problems, particularly bipolar disorder and their families, with a focus on behaviours that contribute to the development and maintenance of obesity and 2) work with young, lower SES, obese or overweight pregnant women and their families. Key aims of the fellowship are: 1) to gain a greater understanding of social support and social networks and how they can facilitate behaviour change and to develop theory around issues like which kind of people benefit from which kinds of social support, who from and how support is best promoted; 2) to develop and test interventions which seek to harness social support and social networks to help initiate and maintain behaviour change in these groups and 3) to explore how technology can be used to facilitate this.
I am Chief Investigator of a National Institute of Health Research, Public Health Research Programme funded trial called HelpMeDoIt! This 30 months randomised controlled trial developed and tested the feasibility and potential effectiveness of an intervention to promote weight loss, employing three key facilitators: goal setting, monitoring, and social support. The intervention was delivered via a smartphone app and website. I am co-investigator and Chief Investigator on a number of other studies (listed below).
I currently lead the Institute of Health and Wellbeing Solutions Focussed Research Theme, which is the largest of the Institutes three research themes. I lead a team of senior staff representing each of the research groups within the Institute to develop a strategy to deliver world-class Solution Focused Research. I am also Theme Lead for two themes within the Social and Public Health Sciences Unit; the Peers and Social Networks theme and the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions theme. I am also currently Head of the Population Health Research Facility, which supports the design, planning and delivery of high-quality research across the Institute and beyond.
I am a member of the NIHR Health Technology Assessment Programme Clinical Evaluation and Trials Board and is a reviewer for the NIHR HTA, NIHR Public Health Research Board, NPRI, MRC, Chief Scientist Office, National Institute for Social Care and Health Research and Health Research Board Ireland. I am a member of the Editorial Board for the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity and reviewer for various journals including Appetite, Clinical Obesity, British Journal of General Practice, BMJ, British Journal of Health Psychology and Journal of Public Health.
I was appointed by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) to Chair three Trial Steering Committees, responsible for overseeing these large trials and reporting to the funder.
FeMUR trial (NIHR HTA), University of Bangor.
Compod Trial (NIHR School for Public Health Research), University of Exeter.
e-Coacher trial (NIHR HTA), University of Plymouth
I was also appointed by the NIHR to Chair the Data Monitoring and Ethics Committee for a £2.5 million NIHR Programme grant, Norwich Diabetes Prevention Study, University of Norwich.
In my previous post-2001-2014, I was Associate Director within the South East Wales Trials Unit (SEWTU), where I was theme lead focussing on behaviour change. I worked jointly between SEWTU and the Centre for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Intervention for Public Health Improvement (DECIPHer), a UKCRC Public Health Centre of Excellence, where I was part of the management team and led on the priority area 'Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet'. I was Deputy Chair of the Research Design and Conduct Service within the trials unit and SEWTU lead on the Public Health Improvement Research Network (PHIRN) partnership board.