Many of Gwenda’s current research interests centre around illness perceptions, attitudes towards illness, perceptions of risk and preventative medicine, help seeking for symptoms of disease and health interventions (including health campaigns and educational programmes).
Perceptions about predictive testing in those at risk of developing Rheumatoid arthritis (EUROTEAM)
The EuroTEAM (Towards Early diagnosis and biomarker validation in Arthritis Management) project (http://www.team-arthritis.eu/) has been funded by the European Union (FP7 Health Programme) for 4 years and started in November 2012. Through EuroTEAM, approaches will be developed to predict the onset of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in people who do not yet have the disease. Ultimately, this will help in the development of treatments to prevent people from getting RA in the first place. The role of Gwenda and other psychologists in the team is to investigate the perceptions of those at risk of developing RA such as people with arthralgia and first degree relatives of people who have RA. In particular we investigate their perceptions of risk of developing the disease and their perceptions of predictive testing for RA (tests currently available and to be developed in the future).
Perceptions of Rheumatoid Arthritis and decisions to seek help in the general public
Gwenda is currently working on several publications based on the outcomes of this research project which was supported by the Dunhill medical trust. This project explored the public knowledge and perceptions of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). It further investigated how people without a diagnosis of RA might react to experiencing the initial symptoms of RA. Research with RA patients has shown that they often delayed for an extended period of time before seeking help for their initial symptoms. This long patient delay is problematic as treatment for RA is ideally started within the first 3 months of symptom onset. The current project (acronym RAPID: Rheumatoid Arthritis the Public InformeD) investigated people without a diagnosis of RA. Besides exploring the general public’s knowledge and perceptions of RA, the project aimed to explore the potential barriers and drivers to help seeking in members of the general public. In addition, the research looked at the role of health literacy. The project used multiple approaches including qualitative interviews, vignettes and a cross-sectional postal survey. The outcomes of this have already informed the development of public health interventions to promote early help seeking behaviour with symptoms of RA. This is collaborative research involving both researchers from the University of Birmingham (Professor Karim Raza, Dr. Rebecca Stack & Kanta Kumar) and the University of Keele (Professor Christian Mallen). More information on the project can be found here: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/ra-rapid.
Patient education in Parkinson’s disease
Another health intervention project Gwenda has been involved in saw the development and evaluation of a patient programme for people with Parkinson’s disease and their carers. This pan-European project (EduPark) was carried out with the financial support from the EU. The education programme focuses on psycho-social support for patients and carers and deals with issues such as depression, anxiety, the burden of care and social support. It consists of 8 sessions, each of which deals with a particular issue. The ultimate aim of the programme is to empower people with Parkinson and their carers by teaching them the tools to deal with some of the symptoms and problems associated with Parkinson’s disease and to seek out information from healthcare specialists and other relevant sources (for example regarding carers’ benefits). The wellbeing of both the patient and their carer is central to this programme and some of the sessions were specifically developed with the carers in mind. A manual has been published in each of the contributing countries for people wishing to deliver the education programme. Gwenda continues to be involved in this project, at present mainly in an advisory role for potential users of the programme and researchers who are looking to adapt the education programme for their own purposes.
Other research interests
Gwenda’s other research interests include interpersonal emotions, inter and intra-personal emotion regulation and nonverbal behaviour, in particular facial expressions.
Whilst at the University of Oxford she has conducted a series of studies looking at these processes in close (romantic) relationships together with Dr Brian Parkinson (PI). In particular, she has studied the habitual patterns of emotion regulation in romantic and other close relationships using a variety of techniques, including video cued recall, interviews and diaries. A related line of research she has pursued is how our own and other people’s emotions influence our appraisal of ambiguous situations, for example when making decisions. She has further researched the regulation of crying and emotional eating as a regulating behaviour.