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OU researchers awarded for outstanding impact on society

Shailey Minocha and team

Research which investigated how wearable monitoring technologies can contribute towards supporting active and healthy ageing, has won The Outstanding Impact of Research and Prosperity category in the OU Research Excellence Awards 2018.

The award was presented to Professor Shailey Minocha, OU Professor of Learning Technologies and Social Computing and her team.

Dr Lesley Hoggart and Dr Victoria Newton from the OU’s Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies were runners-up in this category for their research into their project, My Body My Life, a public engagement story-telling project that seeks to address abortion stigma by bringing real stories of abortion into the open.

Benefits of digital health wearables

The research programme by Professor Minocha and her team has involved investigating whether, and how, wearable activity monitoring technologies can support active and healthy ageing, in self-monitoring and self-management of health, in alleviating social isolation and loneliness, and in caring. Examples of activity monitoring technologies tested include those from Samsung, Fitbit and Garmin. These devices help to track activity, heart rate and sleep patterns. The team’s collaborating partners are: Age UK Milton Keynes, Carers MK, University of Oxford, and Samsung UK. Team members are from the faculties of Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (Duncan Banks, Catherine McNulty, Ana Tudor) and Wellbeing, Education and Language Skills (Caroline Holland), and Kate Hamblin of University of Oxford.

The empirical research involved surveys, interviews and knowledge exchange workshops with people aged over 55 years; carers; healthcare professionals; local charities who provide services and support to older people, carers and their families; and manufacturers of digital health wearables and apps.

The key impacts of the research programme funded by Sir Halley Stewart Trust and the ESRC Impact Acceleration Account are:

  • A raised awareness of the role of activity monitors in active and healthy ageing for older people and carers.
  • Role of activity monitors as behaviour change interventions towards healthier lifestyles.
  • The outputs informed the design of activity monitors and applications, a case in point being the Samsung ACTIVAGE App, through involving manufacturers as one of the key stakeholders in the research programme.
  • The evidence-based outcomes of the research programme to charities and policy makers  are being used to support active and healthy ageing in communities and for influencing social prescribing policies to address social isolation and loneliness.
  • The research has informed activity monitor design and is providing the evidence that could underpin policy for active and healthy ageing and caring.

The judging panel described the programme as “an excellent example of research that is shaped by its users”.

My Body My Life

The project created a space in which anyone could share their stories and has contributed to opening up conversations about real experiences of abortion – both positive and negative – to enable all to speak, to listen, and to understand without judgment. The stories show how easily unplanned pregnancy can become part of women’s lives and how different women have made their decision about having an abortion.

The awards were presented at The Open University’s Research Excellence Awards 2018 ceremony, which were held at Walton Hall, Milton Keynes on 11 July 2018.

Read more about the OU Research Excellence Awards 2018

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