Skip to content

Toggle service links

You are here

  1. Home
  2. Research


Health and Wellbeing research at The Open University

The Health & Wellbeing Strategic Research Area (SRA) aims to support and bridge inter and multi-disciplinary work across The Open University and engagement with external stakeholders, charities, business/industry and the public sector.

Over the last couple of years, we have been fortunate to fund projects which have facilitated OU colleagues from across the University to undertake a project with both internal and external colleagues in a bid to scale up and submit larger funding grants. Below you will find different examples of how the Health and Wellbeing SRA has supported such research grants.

Example 1:

The Health and Wellbeing SRA supported Professor Richard Holti (FBL) and Dr Peter Keogh (WELs) with this research study – ‘Improving the integration of care for trans adults (ICTA).

The ICTA study is externally funded by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) agency.

Example 2:

An output which came out of Example 3 – the Health and Policing sandpits, has been a collaboration between Professor Graham Pike (CPRL/FASS), Dr Hannah R. Marston (H&W SRA/WELs) and Dr Ian Hesketh (College of Policing/FBL) in the form of a scoping review.

This scoping review was funded via the Centre for Policing, Research & Learning (CPRL) and includes over 20 police forces from England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The aim of this scoping review was to explore and identify literature surrounding mobile (health) apps and serious games in the context of health and wellbeing for blue light services (e.g. Police.).

  • Marston, H.R., Hadley, R., Pike, G., & Hesketh, I. (2020). Games for Health & mHealth Apps for Police & Blue Light Personnel: A research review. The Police Journal: Theory, Practice and Principles.

Abstract: Previous research has reported adverse health outcomes for emergency services personnel (ESP), outcomes that research more broadly has shown can be improved using a gamification and mobile health (mhealth) apps approach. We conducted a review of research on gamification and mhealth apps for ESP that had been published in the last 19 years using 6 major research databases. The results demonstrated that virtually no relevant research has been published, suggesting a significant gap in the evidence base of an approach that could potentially have significant benefits for the health of ESP.

Example 3:

In April 2020, Drs Earle, Marston, Hadley and Banks published a scoping review ‘Use of menstruation and fertility app trackers: a scoping review of the evidence.’

This scoping review received funding via the Synergy Program in the Faculty of STEM, OU.

  • Earle S, Marston HR, Hadley R, et al. (2020). Use of menstruation and fertility app trackers: a scoping review of the evidence BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health. doi: 10.1136/bmjsrh-2019-200488

Since it’s publication, the scoping paper which was published in the BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health journal, has garnered media interest across the UK and North America:

Media interest:

Example 4: Health & Policing Sandpits 2018

The Health & Wellbeing Strategic Research Area (H&W SRA) and the Centre for Policing, Research & Learning (CPRL) at the Open University held 2 health and wellbeing in policing sandpits in May 2018. These 2 events brought police personnel together with OU colleagues from across all 4 faculties: WELS, FASS, FBL and STEM. Each sandpit lasted one full day, allowing insights, knowledge and expertise to be shared, and enabling this collaboration to identify needs and requirements associated with the health and wellbeing of policing personnel.

To date, the sandpits have been successful in launching collaborative projects, including identifying at least two grant applications that are being co-created with colleagues from different police forces/organisations. More details on these grants will follow in the coming months.

Organisers of the Health & Policing sandpits were Professor Graham Pike, who is the research lead for the CPRL, Dr Hannah R. Marston, who is the research fellow for the H&W SRA, and Dr Helen King who is the project manager in the CPRL.

Example 5: Positive outcomes from the OU Guyana visit

Thanks to Seed Corn funding from the OU Health and Wellbeing SRA, Dr Helena Ann Mitchell was able to present a ground breaking research programme at the 90th Anniversary Celebrations for the Guyana Nurses Association. The programme aims to establish the first mental health nursing BSc in collaboration with the University of Guyana. During her five day visit Dr Mitchell met with and gained endorsements and letters of support from the University of Guyana, Minister of Health and Chief Medical Officer. She is pictured with the President of Guyana David Granger, and Betty Why.

In collaboration with colleagues at the Open University and Leicester University, Dr Mitchell is now targeting a number of major funding opportunities including the British Academy ‘International Interdisciplinary Research Projects’ call and the MRC ‘Global Mental Health’ call address 1. and 2.

Example 6:

We’re pleased to report on a successful project conducted by Andrea Berardi (Faculty of STEM & member of the Digital Health & Wellbeing SIG) in conjunction with colleagues from Lancaster University who received funding from the Health & Wellbeing SRA in February 2018, which has since led to scaling up the work and submitting a grant to PHIND.

The successful completion of this Health and Wellbeing SRA funded pilot study titled: “Transmedia storytelling for improving wellbeing outcomes in the Makushi Indigenous community of Yupukari, Guyana”, has enabled Dr Andrea Berardi to attract a strong consortium of partners, including the recently launched Commonwealth Centre for Digital Health, Lancaster University’s Centre for Health Information, Computation and Statistics, and industrial partners such as 2iC for upcoming funding calls.

This research will engage the Makushi Indigenous population of Guyana, located within a strategic holo-endemic malaria epicentre, in order to pilot a novel digital and participatory malaria surveillance and management strategy. Dr Berardi and his colleagues will use a spatial-temporal predictive tool for the dynamics of the Anopheles vector to promote proactive and sustainable community-led interventions. The intended research will lay the foundations for a major out scaling initiative through the Commonwealth Centre for Digital Health. The digital health revolution is still in its infancy and this study will provide the urgent baseline research for a step-change in the operational evidence-base for large-scale implementation of ‘last-mile’ digital health systems within Low and Middle-Income Countries.”

Example 7:

In January 2018, Dr Hannah R. Marston (SRA Research Fellow, Digital Health & Wellbeing SIG Lead) and Dr Duncan Banks (Snr Lecturer in Faculty of STEM) were successful in gaining Health & Wellbeing SRA funding to undertake a scoping review to ascertain existing work in the area of wearable devices for monitoring palpitations for diagnosis of Arrhythmia (AR).

  • Marston, H.R., Hadley, R., Banks, D., Duro Miranda, MDC. (2019). Mobile Self-Monitoring ECG Devices to Diagnose Arrhythmia that Coincide with Palpitations: A Scoping Review. Healthcare 7(3):96, doi:10.3390/healthcare7030096