Service Learning

Doctorate student from United Kingdom uses HealthMatters Program in her Research


Lisa O’Leary visited HealthMatters CAP in April 2012. We asked Lisa a few questions about her research. She will be using adapted version of HealthMatters Program in her research.

Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am undertaking a PhD in Intellectual Disabilities and weight management at the University of Ulster. I have a BA in Applied Social Studies (Social Care) and MA in Sociology (Applied Social Research). My research interests include health promotion, people with intellectual disabilities, nutrition, obesity and  mental health.

What are you planning to do in your dissertation research (include your dissertation title, your advisors, etc)?
The PhD is entitled 'Testing the efficacy of a health promotion intervention targeting weight management in adults with an intellectual disability.’ My supervisors are Dr. Laurence Taggart and Dr. Eamonn Slevin. I am planning to deliver an adapted version of the HealthMatters Program to staff who work with people with intellectual disabilities (ID) in residential settings in Northern Ireland. This training will have a focus on educating staff in relation to the importance of healthy nutrition and regular physical activity for people with intellectual disabilities and will  also focus on informing staff of practical strategies to encourage people with intellectual disabilities to eat healthy and exercise more.

Why is this research topic important?
This research is important as evidence suggests that people with ID have higher levels of weight management problems such as obesity than the general population, and this can have a chronic health impact due to the fact that evidence suggests a link between obesity and health conditions such as diabetes, cardio vascular disease and respiratory illness. Also this research is important in order to inform and educate carers of the health needs of people with ID, as evidence suggests that they often have a low awareness of their nutritional and physical activity needs of people with ID.

What do you hope to find out with your research?
I hope that I will l find that the HealthMatters Program influences attitudes towards better nutrition and physical activity among people with ID and their carers, and that staff will draw on the material and resources in the Health Matters Curriculum to support people with ID to eat healthy and exercise more, so that they will be able to co-operate effectively in instigating positive weight management outcome for this population within the community. I also hope that implementation of the HealthMatters Program contributes to positive change in the ethos of the organization involved, so that health promotion becomes an integral part of their culture.