In the summer of 2018, Our Health launched two interdisciplinary, community-based research projects. The research questions have been proposed by local patient support groups: Breathtakers, Breathe Easy Fife and The Cheyne Gang.
We invited students from across the University of Edinburgh to take part in these exciting research projects. After a successful trial, Our Health has been funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to continue creating ground breaking community driven research for The University of Edinburgh and local/global communities over the next 4 years (2019 – 2023).
Our Health Local
Breathtakers & Breathe Easy – The support group for the lung condition “bronchiectasis” were interested in exploring how communication (in all of its many forms) can empower the diagnostic process or disempower it. They wanted to work with students who are interested in understanding how communication can improve self-diagnosis. They were also keen to investigate the space between medical language and the patients’ interpretation of it, and how that can impact lung health.
The Cheyne Gang– A community-based choir who live with the lung condition “chronic obstructive pulmonary disease” (COPD) wanted to conduct evidence-based research around a new breathing technique that the choir uses. The choir were interested in exploring if the breathing technique actually impacts lung physiology and improves the symptoms of COPD overall.
The Cyrenians– A Scottish charity who support people in Edinburgh who have been excluded from family, home, work and the community want to research multiple questions around homelessness and the impact of exclusion on health and wellbeing.
Our Health Global
Aravind Eye Hospital – The largest and most productive eye care centre in the world, based in Madurai, India. Aravind are committed to eradicating needless blindlessness in India. India clinicians and health care workers have asked Our Health Global to research questions around patients eyecare needs and access to essential eyecare.
Excellent Learning Experiences
Community-based research provides opportunities for the wider public to generate research ideas, questions and agendas. When students perform research in response to these question, they co-create research to find solutions to real world problems. This approach aims to strengthen the research process and its outcomes for all partners involved.
Students learn to use their critical thinking skills to analyse complex societal issues. Working within interdisciplinary teams (groups of students from across the 3 Colleges and from various disciplines) allows students to apply their own academic rigour to the research question while acquiring an interactive expertise of other disciplines.
Working with community partners, students learn sophisticated skills of perspective taking, negotiation and participatory action research.
Community partners become researchers in their own right and build and broaden their health literacy and in doing so become more confident and responsible for their own health needs.
The Edinburgh Award
The Edinburgh Award is a University of Edinburgh programme that students can undertake alongside a particular activity. The Award aims to recognise student involvement in these activities and enhance the learning experience. We would use the Edinburgh Award to recognise student’s learning as part of our Summer projects.
Students who complete the Edinburgh Award will be invited to an Award reception where they will receive their Edinburgh Award.
Student Led Individually Created Course
Students will also be able to gain credits for their work if they opt to take their Our Health project as a Student Led Individually Created Course (SLICC)
Student Learning Reflections
Improving Communication and Liaison Skills
“In my capacity as a point of liaison, I successfully contributed to a positive relationship between the Cheyne Gang and myself. I was able to integrate myself, which was beneficial when conducting interviews with the members to try to figure out what their opinions of the breathing techniques were, what their expectations of the students were, and so on. The student group was given the opportunity to present their projects. I seized this opportunity and spoke in front of people I was unfamiliar with, which was a challenge to me. This event helped me improve my abilities in public speaking and communicating.”
Improving Time Management Skills
“I want to improve my time-management skills and manage the meetings facilitated by the group. I have come to notice how difficult it is to plan a meeting with 7 students of different disciplines and hence different schedules and commitments. Therefore, my goal is to help manage everyone’s time so that we do have a chance to meet at least once a week. I would like to do this by asking for everybody’s timetable so that I can find places where most, if not all, members are free to talk, even if it’s only for 30 minutes.”
Improving Creative Thinking
“Throughout my project I have noticed that I am improving in my creativity skills. I am constantly coming up with ideas which could benefit the team and our project. I was happy to get feedback from my fellow team members. Someone told me that I was able to make an impact on the group by coming up with ideas which helped the group- something I hadn’t considered I was doing.”
Improving Leadership and Diplomacy Skills
“I had the opportunity to develop this skill over the last few weeks. Group members felt frustrated with the lack of effective teamwork, while others felt helpless as they were already overwhelmed by their other academic work. Meanwhile, there was a sense of anxiety around the fact that the project was coming to a close and team members were not sure of what their next steps were. I realized that this was an opportunity for me to help the group as a leader. I tried to empathise with the different group members, while also suggesting consolidating the information we had so far. I realised that now, it is time for me to take a slightly more active approach where I gently, but firmly emphasise that together we must move the project forward.”
Improving Perspective Taking Skills
“I developed my perspective taking skill by setting aside my thoughts, feelings, motivations, intentions and considered others’ emotions. I worked on determining whether or not my behaviour should change based on the information I receive and make any necessary changes to suit my audience, if possible. I would also do this by imagining myself having the same experience as another person and using my own similar past experience to understand another person’s situation.”
Improving Organisational Skills
“As part of my Our Health project I have seen major improvements in my ability to work under pressure in the last two months. I have seen this improvement reflecting in my academics; even when it gets stressful, I am still capable, nevertheless, to meet my deadlines and perform very well. In the past years, this would have only been possible if I set out so much time to do so. Usually, if I were to be working under pressure, I would be performing badly because of my inability to deal with my anxiety. I have improved in my ability to work under pressure as a result of the development of my organisational skills.”
How to Apply
Who can apply?
You can apply to joinany of the Our Health projects if you are a student at the University of Edinburgh (includes all programmes of study).
When do the projects take place?
The projects run across Semester 1 and 2 and also across the Summer (June- August)
There will be a number of mentoring sessions led by Project Mentor, Dr Helen Szoor-McElhinney, throughout the course of the projects that help students reflect upon their work and plan next steps.
Students will be invited to attend the Edinburgh Award reception in November or April.
If you are interested in taking part in either of the two research projects, or would like to find out more about them, please contact Helen at Helen.Szoor-McElhinney@ed.ac.uk