Innovative ideas in Health Psychology, EHPS 2017 exceeded all expectations

Guest blogger Milou Fredrix shares her experiences of #EHPS2017

by Milou Fredrix – Health Behaviour Change Research Group, NUI Galway

On 29th August 2017, international researchers met in the Italian city of Padua for the annual European Health Psychology Society Conference. One of the world’s oldest surviving universities hosted this occasion as an opportunity to learn about research projects under the theme “Innovative ideas in Health Psychology”. With keynote lectures from Prof Fabio Lucidi, Prof Sherry Pagoto, Prof Rory O’Connor and Prof Annmarie Cano, and over 900 oral/poster presentations, this conference was a great opportunity to be ‘wowed’ by the remarkable research that is happening in Europe and around the world.

I was lucky enough to present my work on the content and fidelity of the goal-setting component of the DAFNE structured diabetes education program. This study found that, even though the manuals for delivering DAFNE are identical across clinics, this component of DAFNE is delivered very differently across educators within Ireland, with some educators delivering as little as 17% of the content.

One of the first symposia of the conference focused on “broadening our approaches to health behaviour change, by taking context into account”. It included a series of fantastic presentations that highlighted how much effect the environment, families and partners have on our health behaviour. For example, one study, presented by Rachel Burns, found that the eating and physical activity behaviours of people with newly-diagnosed diabetes are strongly connected with those of their partners.

On 2nd September, the symposium “maximising the value of qualitative methods in the development and evaluation of behaviour change interventions” showcased the array of roles that qualitative research methods such as interviews, can play in health intervention development. The Health Behaviour Change Research Group (HBCRG) at the National University of Ireland, Galway, was well represented with Prof Molly Byrne presenting how qualitative work and patient engagement contributed to the development of an intervention to improve health outcomes among young adults living with type 1 diabetes. The most striking part of this ‘D1 intervention’, was the involvement of a ‘young adult panel’ (eight young adults living with diabetes) in all aspects of the study. In a second presentation within this symposium, Dr Jenny McSharry (HBCRG) presented her work on barriers and facilitators to attending type 2 diabetes education programs. Her research highlighted that people with type 2 diabetes often don’t attend these programs due to a lack of awareness around where programmes are available, not appreciating their potential benefits, or not wanting to admit to the ‘reality of diabetes’. Additionally, the role that healthcare professionals could and should play in encouraging and promoting structured diabetes education was emphasised.

A final personal highlight was the keynote lecture by Prof Sherry Pagoto, who has extensively studied the use of social media in analysing and promoting health behaviour. She made the excellent point that social media can reach people more efficiently than ever, which is something that health psychology needs to use to its advantage!

After such an inspiring conference, we couldn’t be more proud to announce that Galway will be hosting EHPS 2018! (#EHPS2018).

Photo L-R: Dr Annegret Schneider, Prof Val Morrison, Dr Karen M Sikar, Prof Molly Byrne, Dr Jenny McSharry and Marita Hennessey after their symposium on ‘maximising the value of qualitative research methods in the development and evaluation of behaviour change interventions’.

 The ACBRD team cannot get to all conferences! We appreciate our colleagues sharing the highlights of national and international conferences. Please contact if you would like to contribute a guest blog.

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