Area Academic Contact: Professor Joan Duda, School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, email@example.com
The concept of well-being has come to prominence in recent years. It suggests a holistic understanding of human happiness and quality of life, rather than an exclusive focus only on health-based, financial, or other drivers.
A well-being perspective is thus inherently interdisciplinary. At Birmingham, we are engaged in research examining questions relevant to health and well-being from vantage points as diverse as medicine, the sport and exercise sciences, psychology, ethics and philosophy, and education and pedagogy.
Researchers in our School of Sport and Exercise Sciences and Department of Public Health, Epidemiology and Biostatistics are prominent in this line of work, and contribute to multidisciplinary teams involved in the Centre for Obesity Research, Centre for Healthy Ageing and the Institute for Sport, Exercise and Movement. Research clusters in Philosophy, Theology and Religion focus on Health and Happiness and Ethics and Assisted Independent Living for the Elderly, the latter in collaboration with Medicine and the Health Services Management Centre. The Department of Sport Pedagogy researches how to improve the experience of sport participants of all ages, facilitating a lifelong engagement with exercise and healthy living.
We seek not only to understand but to have a positive impact, and thus we aim to translate our work through relationships with the NHS, schools, professional groups, sport organisations and those involved in physical activity promotion, and our own students and staff.
The focus of this area is primarily the relationship between health and overall well-being. Those interested in financial well-being will find more information in the priority area Household Wealth and Personal Finance.
School of Sport and Exercise Sciences
Rated first in the UK for our excellence in world class research, our School of Sport and Exercise Sciences combines a long history of excellence in teaching and research.
Sport and Exercise Sciences includes the study of sport and human biology to understand the workings of the healthy human body and the way in which physical activity promotes health and well-being.
The School’s Research Mission is a scientifically rigorous approach to the study of sport, physical activity, exercise, and health. Studies involve an interdisciplinary research approach integrating the expertise and analytical skills of the School’s five overlapping research groups:
More information about the School's research can be found on the School's website.
Relevant to the topic of Health and Well-Being, the School has significant research focusing on the question of how to develop effective theoretically-grounded as well as pragmatic interventions centred on fostering motivation for and participation in physical activity and healthy eating and associated well being in children and adults.
There is currently a considerable amount of evidence regarding the impact of regular engagement in physical activity and healthy eating on physical and mental health. We also now know more about the mechanisms by which exercise and dietary patterns contribute to health as well as the means by which inactivity and unhealthy eating (e.g., high calorie diets) lead to disease states. However, despite these marked advances in our knowledge base, there is a large and increasing percentage of the population who do not participate in physical activity at the intensity and frequency necessary to accrue the health benefits associated with regular exercise. Insufficient levels of physical activity have been implicated in the aetiology of obesity. In the case of individuals who are overweight or obese, dietary modification is also necessary. Thus, there is a striking need for viable interventions that can successfully influence the adoption and maintenance of physical activity and healthy eating in the general population and in terms of patient groups.
Results of interventions centred on individual behavioural change have been inconsistent. Much of this work is not grounded in theories of motivation or does not adequately test our current theoretical understanding of what contributes to healthy lifestyles. Whether directed toward primary or secondary prevention, we need interventions that are feasible and can effectively promote and maintain behavioural change. Key staff members represented in this theme have expertise regarding the environmental (social, physical) factors and motivational processes underpinning health behaviour patterns and optimal functioning in children and adults. The applied and basic research we do considers physical activity engagement in the largest sense: i.e., physical activity accrued within exercise classes, physical activity referral programmes, sport, dance, physical education, hospital-based exercise programmes, the workplace, care homes, and daily life physical activities (e.g., taking the stairs, gardening, transport walking). The importance of motivational processes is also considered to whether physical activity is more or less likely to result in positive mental health outcomes.
Centre for Obesity Research
Obesity Research has been a growing research interest at the University of Birmingham over the past several years. Recently, research groups across the University have come together to co-ordinate their work with the aim of understanding the metabolic processes that contribute to obesity and metabolic disease as well as implementing novel treatment and prevention strategies.
The Centre for Obesity Research at the University of Birmingham draws on existing research excellence across many schools and has a fundamental collaborative, multidisciplinary ethos reflecting the complex nature of obesity and metabolic disease.
Centre for Healthy Ageing
We are an ageing population, with current demographic trends indicating that 1 in 5 adults in the UK will be aged over 65 by the year 2020. Whilst this is a cause for celebration, there is also evidence that healthspan (the time spent in good health) is not keeping pace with the increases in average lifespan, with significant consequences for quality of life in old age and for health and social services provision. Thus medical advances have ensured that a greater proportion of the population make it through to the third age of man, but they have made less impact upon the quality of life in old age. Age is the most important risk factor for many disabling human diseases and on average men will still be unwell for the last 6 years of their lives and women for the last 11 years.
Research at Birmingham tackles health and ageing in a number of ways. Birmingham has major groups working on research into the ageing process, including the ageing immune system, stem cells, and inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis as well as being a major centre for cancer research and cognitive neuroscience.
More information can be found on the Centre for Healthy Ageing Research website and also on the Birmingham Heroes page on ageing.
Department of Sport Pedagogy
The Department of Sport Pedagogy has recently been created to recognise the coming of age of this discipline and the strengthening research profile of this group within the School of Education.
Sport Pedagogy is an evidence-based, practice-focussed discipline located in the academic space where sport and education come together. The subject matter of sport pedagogy forms the foundation of effective teaching and coaching. Research in sport pedagogy is focussed on developing new knowledge that can improve the learning experiences of sports participants of all ages and levels, and the practitioners who support them.
The remit of sport pedagogy includes the study of physical education and sport, teaching and coaching, sport participation, sport policy, health and education. As a practice-focussed discipline, sport pedagogy is both multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary. It aims to synthesise knowledge from a range of sport science disciplines, and also education, in order to develop new knowledge to inform and improve professional practice in sport. The department has particular expertise in the career-long professional development of sport coaches and physical education teachers.
School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion (PTR)
Health and Happiness Research Cluster
The 'health and happiness' research cluster within Philosophy, Theology and Religion conducts individual and collaborative research in a range of areas centrally relevant to the philosophy of health and wellbeing. Relevant areas include: competing accounts of health and disease/illness; phenomenological and cognitive-neuropsychological accounts of mental illness; the relationship between the pathological and the irrational; philosophical theories of well-being; the relationship between health and well-being or happiness; the distinction between subjective and objective well-being; the relationship between a meaningful life and a happy life; heath and perfection (plastic surgery; genetic enhancement; body image); medicalisation; and the distinction between 'good' death and 'bad' death.
Relevant researchers within PTR include Heather Widdows, Lisa Bortolotti, Yujin Nagasawa, David Cheetham, Stephen Pattison, Jussi Suikkanen, Iain Law. Lisa Bortolotti and Heather Widdows are both Members of the International Consortium on Bioethics, Sexuality, and Gender Identity Project.
Current and recent projects include the following:
Heather Widdows (co-applicant): TISS.EU Project on Evaluation of Legislation and Related Guidelines on the Procurement, Storage and Transfer of Human Tissues and Cells in the European Union – an Evidence-Based Impact Analysis. EC-funded, (March 2008 – 2011). The project is lead by the Department for Ethics and History of Medicine, University of Goettingen, Germany.
Lisa Bortolotti (main applicant): Wellcome Trust Research Expenses Grant on Rationality and Sanity: Implications of a Diagnosis of Mental Illness for Autonomy as Self-Governance (Jan-June 2010).
Lisa Bortolotti (collaborator): Wellcome Trust Project on Autonomy and Mental Health led by Lubomira Radoilska, University of Cambridge; AHRC-funded project entitled Emotions and Feelings in Psychiatric Ill-ness, coordinated by Matthew Ratcliffe and Tony Atkinson, University of Durham; AHRC Network on The Concept of Health, Illness and Disease, managed by Havi Carel, University of the West of England and Rachel Cooper, University of Lancaster.
Ethics and Assisted Independent Living
The two major topics are robotics assistance for the elderly, and telecare (technology allowing both for the adaptation of housing for the disabled, including the frail elderly, and for long-distance diagnosis and health monitoring).
On the former, there is a new research project, ACCOMPANY ((FP7 2010 ICT Call)) led by Tom Sorell (Centre for the Study of Global Ethics in PTR) and Heather Draper (Medical School) starting in October, worth E200k over the next 3 years.
On the latter (telecare), there is a CASE/EREBUS PhD studentship; the student will be co-supervised by Tom Sorell and Suzanne Robinson in Health Services Management Centre (HSMC), and her research is co- sponsored by ESRC and the Sandwell Primary Care Trust.
This topic is also part of the huge CLERK study in the School of Public Health (also based at Sandwell). Tom Sorell and Heather Draper are building up a string of publications in this area and are exploring fiuture collaborations with robotics colleagues in the university and in HSMC.