The Big 5 Ep9_Nicki OBrien_mixdown
11:08AM Jan 12, 2022
human rights organization
Hello and welcome to the Big Five podcasts from Northumbria psychology department. My name is Dr. Genavee Brown and I'll be your guide into the minds of psychology students, alumni and researchers at Northumbria University. I'm a lecturer and researcher in the psychology department and my research focuses on how people use technology like cell phones and social media to connect with one another. Each week on this podcast, I'll speak to a guest who is either a student alumni or researcher in the Northumbria psychology department. By asking them five big questions, we'll learn about their time studying psychology, and hopefully learn some big facts about human behavior and experience. Today I have the pleasure of speaking to my guest, Dr. Nikki O'Brien. Hello, Nikki. Hello. Nikki is a chartered health psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society and an associate professor in the Psychology Department. Her research focuses on developing and evaluating complex health interventions at both the individual and population level. Her recent work during the COVID 19 pandemic used animated gifts to promote social distancing and hand washing in Guatemala. Nikki, can you tell us a bit about why you decided to study health psychology? And what are some of the theories you use in your work?
I chair I can thank you, Jen, I chose health psychology. And in my undergraduate degree, there wasn't a health psychology pathway as there is at Northumbria there was there weren't pathways at all, in fact, but there were certain modules you can choose there was a health psychology module, but it didn't actually appeal to me. And I didn't take it. But I did take an exercise psychology module, and really enjoyed that and then ended up doing my undergrad dissertation project on exercise psychology. When I finished my undergraduate degree, I got really interested in the exercise psychology part, and wanted to take it further and then kind of became aware of the health psychology in terms of a master's degree. From there really then, so beyond the physical activity component, and increasing physical activity as part of health psychology, but also also the broader parts to the bigger areas that you can work within, within long term conditions and health, other health behaviors. So it wasn't, I sort of fell into it, perhaps in terms of it looked like a very good master's degree that I wanted to take, and really loved it. In terms of theories that I use within health psychology, I like to take abused quite a lot of the World Health Organization framework. So this is a framework of an international classification of functioning disability and health. And it's quite originally quite a biomedical model. And I like to take that as a structure for all health or illness states that we might have. And then using different psychological theories, and integrating those within it. And that was some work that I extended some work of some earlier people as part of my PhD. And within that I integrated the theory of planned behavior within it. I like aspects of the theory of planned behavior, but I'm not totally persuaded by it. And I draw on other constructs that are psychological constructs within a lot of my other research, that some of the work that you mentioned at the beginning, then about the gifts that developed use social cognitive theory. So that's a lot more around the important role of self efficacy and how confident somebody does or doesn't feel any in doing a particular behavior. And how we can instill greater feelings of confidence in someone and promote the opportunity for them to engage and do the behavior so that they get the mastery experience of doing it. And therefore they're more likely to do the pages again and again.
Interesting. Can you tell us a bit more about that gift study and kind of what was the methodology? How did you develop those? Did you work with people in Guatemala to develop those? And then how did you deploy them?
Yes. So it was a another kind of fortunate study, I guess, a sort of fortunate experience of being able to do this work. I had already had links with a human rights organization in Guatemala. And that was through a volunteer experience that I did at the end of my master's degree in health psychology. I plan to do six months as a volunteer through an American Field Service Organization, and I went to Guatemala to work in nursing homes for for six months. As part of that experience. I was also learning Spanish, and working, as I say, in this nursing home. I then wanted to I essentially wanted to travel all around the rest of Central America and I wanted to see other countries but didn't have any money because I've been working as a volunteer for six months. So started to teach English started to teach English in an academy in Guatemala City. And then came in contact with a student who worked in the finance team at this human rights organization, who told me about the opportunity. That was they were looking for someone who spoke both English and Spanish, who had a psychological background to work on some psychosocial rehabilitation projects, partly doing interpreting between the funders who came who was Danish government, and the team who were Guatemalan, and also drawing on having psychological knowledge and expertise to bring to the project too. So I ended up staying and living in Guatemala for almost well, just over three years, working with that human rights organization on some really fascinating projects around working with victims direct and indirect victims of the conflict that the country had had an internal conflict for many years. So it was a fascinating project I didn't, I made some wonderful friends and contacts through that. So the university then advertised, just before the pandemic hit, so it would have been the end of year of 2019. They advertise some funding to do some work with overseas development, kind of work global developer challenges. And I put an application in to work with some of the contacts I had in that office to develop some visual communication methods for health challenges. We'll just develop something that would be visual, but it will have no text or language links to it. Because Guatemala has 25 official languages. That's one of those is Spanish and the others are all the different Mayan and Griffin languages. And the majority of health professionals in the country speak Spanish. So there's an even greater divide of those who are in the more rural areas who don't speak Spanish who have even less access to health or health services or health information. So wanted to develop some health communications around chronic malnutrition. And transmission of infectious diseases are two of the key health challenges that the country faces. And do that in a way that didn't need text didn't need language. So it could be greater greater chance of that kind of the the impact and the reach across the whole country. So that was the plan, we got the funding. And then obviously COVID happened, the pandemic hit. So we very quickly switched the project to just being totally focused on the same concept, but using visual communications for COVID preventative behaviors, rather than looking at chronic malnutrition or the infectious diseases more generally, as we'd anticipated. So it was with the team in Guatemala, with the colleagues here at Northumbria So, Santosh, Vijay Kumar, who's in the psychology department too, with a background in public health and health communication, also involved le land who's in the department of arts, and she's an animator in a film director
involved her to and we came together. And we work through a process of intervention co design, which is a process which is a methods and techniques that I've used in other projects, which is essentially where you have everybody on equal footing in terms of stakeholders in the process. So you involve the people who would receive or be the beneficiaries of the thing, you're developing the people who might promote it, the people who might develop it, the people who might commission it, and you get everybody's views to ensure that you come up with an it with a service and intervention, a product that is beneficial, acceptable, and therefore more likely to be used by everyone. So we used that process, everything was done remotely because of the pandemic. So we did these co design workshops remotely, involving people in Guatemala and the team in the UK, did some interviews with people. The team in Guatemala interviewed health professionals in Guatemala about their understanding of current messages. We did a desk based review of messages that were available on the internet. And then we draw those different evidence sources together in this process of CO design, and came up with a set of three gifts. So yeah, so we came up with this set of three gifts that are about promotion, showing people how to promote appropriate preventative behaviors of wearing a mask correctly, social distancing, and hand washing and we developed the gifts to be targeting people both in the urban areas of Guatemala and in the rural areas. And we also focused on two of the gifts are focused on the family setting as a family unit being very core in that culture. And also on youth as the group identified that youth were the group that were less likely to be engaging in the preventative measures at that time. So those gifts have then been disseminated across social media through the partner organization. We They badged the the guests with their logo as a recognized sort of credible source within the country. So they share them across social media. And the gifts have also been shared across the Catholic TV channel, which goes, which is terrestrial TV channel that goes across the whole country. So they were put into a series of the gifts with some, with some music behind it. And that was shown across the TV channel. So that's the, the the way that the gifts have been sort of have been put out there, if you like.
And do you know, have you been able to measure the impact of that work has increased those preventive health behaviors?
So that's where I sadly can't? No, we haven't, because we can't, it was very much, it was very much in the moment. Pragmatic evaluate proper pragmatic decision. And the decision of this, we just needed to get these gifts out. So they were they were disseminated around this time. Last year was we took, we had them fully developed. So it was just before Christmas that they wanted to disseminate them. And we didn't have the resources on board to have the social media analytics in place to actually see other than I can see how many times they've been shared or liked and things like that, I can't get exposure beyond that. And in terms of the TV broadcast of it, again, we've got no idea as to how many people have seen it or not. So we don't have direct evidence of impact on behaviors. But what we have done since as an experimental study, were we an online survey of just over 300 adults in Guatemala, and that was showing them each of the gifts and measuring their the determinants of behavior, the likely determinants of engaging in those behaviors. So their intention to engage in the in the preventative measures, their self efficacy, and also their outcome expectancy. So how likely they feel that these behaviors engaging in these behaviors will have a positive impact on reducing the transmission of COVID. So we have we have strong data from that, from that experimental survey to show that each of the guests were positively increasing, improving each of those cognitions are known in the evidence base, theoretically, they are known to be strong predictors of whether someone actually does do the behavior. So we're hoping to extend that work now, and see whether we've actually got any impact on behavior.
Excellent. Yeah, it's, it can be so difficult when you're doing research out in the real world to to measure to measure those things that we'd like to have. But it's great that you got to do that follow up study and have some evidence that that is having an impact. So you said that you hope to continue this research, I've heard that you have a PhD studentship, that you're advertising at Northumbria, is that related to this work?
It is yes. So what we're in we're actually hoping to do is we've got some fun, hopefully get some funding now to allow a student to work with us. So with the team that I'd said before, so this is myself and Santosh in the department, Ellie in the department of arts, and also michael craig in the Department of Psychology, who came on board to help us with the survey analyses and the data for this for the survey there. So he's now on board as well. So it's a project it will be a peer of PhD project looking to. First of all, we felt we want to further test the gifts that we currently have. And we want as I say, we really want to see if we can get measures of behavioral change, not just these determinants of behavior, his intention and self efficacy. But we actually want to see whether the the the gifts can actually increase behavior as well. We also then want to try and do some modification of the gifts. So with some supports, through the Department of arts through le lands work there, we're hoping to do some different tweaks and modifications of the guests to see if we can identify the active parts of them. So change the messages slightly in terms of the the framing of the message, or the content of what's being given out the focus of it, and see if we can do some experiments or surveys and really unpack which parts are working in which parts, which parts have a greater driving effect, essentially. And yeah, so that's essentially where we want to go, it's kind of really vary. Then, the third the third part we want to look at is to understand the gifts that we currently have, have been developed with social cognitive theory and mind within the narrative of the gifts. The behaviors are being demonstrated or modeled in the correct way. And the idea would be that somebody can be watching these guests and then learning through vicariously learning through modeling this modeling of somebody else doing it correctly, and they're more likely to increase their confidence in doing that. behavior in the same way. So we have a theoretical basis for what we for what we think the gifts are kind of sitting within. But we want to test that more formally. So we actually want to do consensus study to actually identify the behavior change techniques, from a health psychology point of view. And specifically work through that and identify what behavior change techniques, experts within the field of health, Psychology and Behavioral Medicine think the gifts are actually targeting so that we can get a better understanding of how they might be working in the mechanisms of effect. So yeah, that's the project we currently have advertised.
Interesting. So would the students need to have experience in health psychology?
Yes, yeah, that would be ideally, we'd like a student with interests experience in health psychology, or public health or kind of health communication, potentially across those those broad areas. Someone with an interest in design would, or some sort of creative, creative interest as well would be fantastic, but not essential. We are obviously, as I say, wanting to do some work around modifying the gifts that we have. And that would obviously involve animation expertise. The project itself, we had a freelance animator working on it, who developed the gifts for us. So what we'd be doing now is making small modifications to the gifts that we currently have. And that would, as I say, we would be using some of the support through le land in the department of arts and the animation program there to actually modify them. But obviously a student who has an interest in sales and that creative or that kind of design, focus would be fantastic, but not essential. Mainly, it's Yeah, health, psychology, public health, health, communication, interest and knowledge.
So will you still be collecting data in Guatemala will be that will there be chances to travel or Spanish kind of a necessary requirement?
Yes, we still be collecting in Guatemala, we want to continue, continue testing, testing the gifts with some modifications. They're also potentially looking at other Latin American countries who would similar but slightly, but obviously, different cultures, the gifts have been developed very much to look like it's Guatemala in terms of the setting and the backdrop and the colors and the culture. But they are, to some degree, we would like to also explore how transferable they will be in other countries, in Latin within Latin America. So yeah, ideally, if restrictions allow the opportunity to travel on tour to visit a teammate, there would be would definitely be a possibility. So fingers crossed, that can happen.
Excellent. Sounds like a really interesting and exciting PhD. So I hope that someone will apply for that. If you are listening to this and you are interested in this PhD. You can find a list of all the PhDs that Northumbria University is offering in our psychology department on our blog, Northumbria P S. y.com. All right, I'd like to thank you, Nikki, for speaking yesterday. This has been extremely interesting. I love hearing about this research. And where can people find you online if they want to keep updated on this project?
Yep. So you can find me on Twitter and you can also through my through my Twitter account, you can also find the gifts if you want to have a look at those. And that's Nikki ni CK i j O'Brien, ob r i e n.
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