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News archive for May 2010

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Don’t worry, be happy – your baby may be watching

Nicola Sturgeon to address Self Care conference

Risk research project takes to the stage with Big Lottery funding

Stirling's new Principal plans for a successful future



Don’t worry, be happy – your baby may be watching

Date released: Wednesday 5 May, 2010

‘Not in front of the children’ is often the unspoken rule between partners when emotive issues have to be tackled on the home front. However parents may not feel that the same level of caution is required when the child witnessing the exchange is just a baby. Rochelle Hentges, an MSC Psychology student at the University of Stirling, plans to conduct a study to explore whether babies can recognise emotions between couples.

“Previous studies have found that, when they are presented with photos of individuals expressing exaggerated versions of happiness, anger and sadness, infants can tell the difference between facial expressions,” says Rochelle. “Our research will involve using more ‘natural’ methods to determine whether infants can detect these differences in more normal, everyday situations.”

Rochelle is now searching for parents of 6- to 12-month-old infants to participate in this study. The babies will simultaneously watch two video clips of couples expressing two different emotions, while audio from one of the clips is played in the background.

“We want to research whether infants will look longer at the video which corresponds to the audio,” Rochelle explains. “If they do focus on that particular video, this will indicate that they can recognize the visual expression of the emotion which is being conveyed by the voices.”

Infants who will be between 6 and 12 months old between now and 31 July are eligible to take part and parents and their babies will be asked to make a one-time visit lasting approximately 20 minutes. Parents will be met at the Macrobert Art Centre and taken to the study’s location in the nearby Psychology Department at the University of Stirling.

As a token of appreciation for their participation, parents can choose between a small age-appropriate toy and a £4 voucher for the Macrobert Centre. The vouchers can be used toward events and purchases at the Macrobert, including the Parent & Baby cinema screenings or one-hour of Treehouse creche time.

If you would like to take part in Rochelle’s research project, call 07837 705295 or email:


Nicola Sturgeon to address Self Care conference

Date released: Monday 10 May, 2010

Nicola Sturgeon, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Health & Wellbeing, will give the keynote address at an international conference on Support for Self Management of Health to be held at the University of Stirling on Tuesday 11 May – Thursday 13 May.

The conference, organised by the Alliance for Self Care Research, based within the University’s Department of Nursing and Midwifery, will take place at Stirling Management Centre.  Ms Sturgeon will join the conference via video link.

Support for Self Management of Health is a top priority for every health system. It includes support for staying healthy, support for managing everyday symptoms and support for managing the impact of long term illnesses and disabilities on people’s lives.  It involves people themselves, voluntary sector and consumer organisations, health and social care professionals and Government policy makers.

Speaking about self management of health and the importance of the conference, Nicola Sturgeon said: “There are around two million people in Scotland living with long term conditions. That number will increase as more people live longer. 

“Supporting people to manage their long term conditions can dramatically improve life for them and for those closest to them.  We endorse the view underpinning the Scottish self management strategy, Gaun Yersel’, that life is for living and for living well – not something that should simply be endured.”

Conference Chair, Professor Sally Wyke, who is Director of Alliance for Self Care Research and Chair of Health and Social Care at the University of Stirling, said: “International experts from 13 different countries are coming together in Stirling to discuss helping people to manage their health better. They will discuss approaches to helping poor and marginalised people to access good quality support, as well as the ways in which health care professionals can provide better support levels.  Self care is about helping people to help themselves and being there when they need our support.”

The event is being organised in conjunction with the Long Term Conditions Alliance Scotland and the University of Manchester’s National Primary Care Research and Development Centre.  It will provide a forum for researchers, health experts and policy makers to meet and to discuss their work and its implications.  The programme, which includes an exciting mix of workshops, keynote speakers, panel discussions, symposia and poster sessions, is designed to meet the requirements of those involved in support for self management, who want to discuss their work and learn from one another.

A series of international speakers will deliver more than 60 papers on a broad range of issues. These include: 

Exploring the links between low literacy and poor health: Phyllis Easton, NHS Tayside

Poorer health and wellbeing is strongly associated with low literacy; one possible explanation being that health information is frequently written at a level above the reading age of many people. While they may adopt strategies to obtain information, including relying heavily on the help of family and friends, there is always the potential for them to ‘miss’ important details.

The problem of poor literacy may be a significant contributor to the social inequalities in health which the NHS is working to reduce. Therefore relationships between patients and staff should be addressed, in addition to simplifying written information.

Medication adherence, marital status and outcomes in heart failure: Martha Biddle, University of Kentucky

Unmarried patients with heart failure account for a higher percentage of hospital re-admissions and mortality rates than married ones.  While the reasons for this difference are unclear, it is accepted that the correct use of prescribed medication is central to achieving the best clinical outcomes. Therefore it may be that the presence of a partner positively influences the extent of a married patient’s medication adherence.

The paper describes a study of the medication adherence of 136 heart failure patients over a three month period. It was found that unmarried patients were more likely to be non-adherent and that cardiac event-free survival was worse in this group. In fact, unmarried patients were more than twice as likely to experience a cardiac event. The research concluded that subgroups, such as unmarried patients had to be taken into account when designing interventions to improve medication adherence.


Risk research project takes to the stage with Big Lottery funding

Date released: Monday 10 May, 2010

A ground-breaking project that uses theatre to explore the role of risk in the lives of disabled people has been awarded funding from The National Lottery through Big Lottery Fund.  The project, led by the Scottish consortium Altrum, will take 21 months to complete and will be delivered in partnership with Thistle Foundation, member of Altrum, and the University of Stirling.

Brigid Daniel, Professor of Social Work at the University of Stirling and principal investigator on the research project said: “We are delighted to have been awarded this funding which will be used to explore the views of people living with disabilities about the risks they may face. They have opinions about what professionals should be considering when they are making decisions about risks and protection – and we would like to hear them.

“This information will then be used to develop practice guidance which we hope will lead to improved involvement of people who use services, when it comes to making decisions about risk.”

The team from Stirling and the Thistle Foundation will use Forum Theatre, an innovative research methodology which consists of an experienced theatre group introducing scenarios which audience members are then invited to take part in and develop. 

The audiences, made up of people who use Altrum’s services, will be brought together at various locations and their input into the development of storylines will be recorded. The video footage will then be studied in an effort to identify the key issues which these people believe involve risk and protection.

Diana Paton, Chief Executive of the Thistle Foundation and Treasurer of Altrum commented: “A certain element of risk taking is essential to enrich all our lives and this project will clarify what level of risk disabled people, who depend on support from others, want to have in theirs.”

A particularly interesting feature of the project is that the research team will include several disabled people. They will consult with 40 participants with disabilities, all of whom are clients of Altrum member organisations. The project’s findings will be widely shared with social work and social care organisations, resulting in approximately 17,500 disabled people becoming more involved in decisions about risk and protection; hopefully increasing their level of choice and giving them more control over their lives.

Additionally, the project should provide social work professionals in approximately 300 organisations with increased knowledge of the decision-making skills required in risk assessment. The ultimate aim is that social policy will better reflect the views of people who access the services on offer.



Stirling's new Principal plans for a successful future

Date released: Monday 17 May, 2010

Professor Gerry McCormac

The University of Stirling has welcomed Professor Gerry McCormac as its new Principal and Vice-Chancellor. He succeeds Professor Christine Hallett, who retired at the end of April.

Professor McCormac joins Stirling from Queen’s University Belfast, where he had an outstanding track record of raising the University’s profile both nationally and internationally. He played a key economic development role by connecting the University’s research base to the business community and intends to have a similar impact at Stirling, assisting Scotland in growing its wealth and economic base.

Professor McCormac hosted a ‘get to know you’ session for students and staff on his first day, and has already attended his first alumni event. He said: “With one in five of the city of Stirling’s population working or studying here, I want to make sure that the University continues to play a key role in the local community.”

Quality will remain central to the University’s agenda. Professor McCormac said: “Here at Stirling, we strive for quality in all we do; in the facilities we have and in the teaching and research experience that we deliver. Recent successes that demonstrate this include the award of the title Sunday Times Scottish University of the Year 2009/10.”

Speaking of his high ambitions for Stirling, he said: “I aim to build on Stirling’s key strengths, which include a reputation for innovation and excellence, a vibrant academic community and one of the best student experiences in the UK.

“We want to be the destination of choice for students in Scotland and continue to build a thriving international base. We will continue to build global partnerships and enhance our reputation as the most innovative University in Scotland.”


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