Guest blog, My Research, Science

Guest Blog – My PhD plans and improving care

Blog from James Watson

Welcome to my first blog!

My name is James Watson and I am a student at the University of Liverpool.  I have worked in the NHS (Cheshire & Merseyside Cancer Network) and local authority public health for several years, and recently graduated from the Masters in Public Health at the University of Liverpool.  I am really interested in health and social inequalities, specifically relating to older people’s health and wellbeing, end of life (EoL) care and the health of older informal EoL carers.  Over the next 3-3 ½ years I will be investigating the socio-economic and geographic variation in care pathways and the resulting health and economic outcomes for older populations.

Where somebody lives can influence their health; for example, variance in standard of housing, access to green spaces for health and exercise, access to healthy eating options, levels of income, wealth and employment, and access to personal or public transport all have an impact on health and tend to be worse in more disadvantaged areas.  Equity and equality in health within and across our populations is integral to having a healthy population – improving the health of more socioeconomically disadvantaged areas can produce a healthier overall population.

With less money, staff and resources, and the population getting older, there is more pressure and demand on community health services, GPs, A&E, hospitals and social care.  Therefore, we must be more effective in how we include patients in making decisions about their own health and care, but also how we plan and implement services to help older people, in order to make the most of the money and resources available.

My PhD is linked in with a variety of schools and networks within the University of Liverpool: the School of Environmental Sciences, the Institute of Population Health Sciences and the Institute for Healthy Ageing and Chronic Disease.  I also have links with the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) and amongst my supervisors is fellow NIHR Dementia Researcher and blogger Clarissa Giebel!

The research will take two main strands.  Firstly, and primarily, big data will be used to populate a predictive algorithm (a set of rules/sequence of processes) using machine leaning techniques (based on patients’ geography, demography, morbidity, service needs etc.), which will help clinicians facilitate – in discussion with their patient – more effective ways to manage older people with dementia through the health and social care system, as a means to reduce negative outcomes and personalise their care.  These outcomes should enable clinicians to provide a more cost-efficient and impactful use of services for older people with dementia; making it more accessible for those at the sharp end of inequality and inequities in health, and service provision.  Secondly, there will be stakeholder engagement, with NHS Trusts, CCGs, Public Health, third sector organisations, and non-professional groups, such as patients and social care users, and representatives and support groups.

My work has always highlighted to me the importance of narrowing the gap in health and social inequalities, and in improving accessibility to services and support for those who are most vulnerable within our communities.  Hopefully by the end of my PhD, I will become a lecturer and researcher in public health, with a focus on health inequalities, older people’s health and improving the situation for disadvantaged informal carers.  I hope to continue to research older people’s health and wellbeing, to improve the situation for people who may be more disadvantaged, more disconnected from the health and social care system and more disengaged from their communities.

I look forward to being able to update you on the progress of the research as it continues!


Author

James Watson is a first year PhD (2019) student at the University of Liverpool, exploring socio-economic and geographic variation in care pathways and their resulting health and economic outcomes for older populations. With a back ground in public health and local authority he previously worked as the primary analyst for older people’s health and dementia. He completed the Masters in Public Health at The University of Liverpool, with a dissertation exploring informal carers’ views and perceptions of providing end of life care to a family member.

You can follow James on Twitter         

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