All posts by Rich Mitchell

An atlas of change in Scotland’s built environment 2016-17

By Laura Macdonald from the MRC/CSO  Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow @theSPHSU

Our neighbourhood environments change and evolve often; some changes are minor, while others involve major transformation. Change can take various forms; green space created or removed, existing housing or amenities demolished, new housing estates built, new motorways created, or existing transport infrastructure modified or extended. Change may affect neighbourhood residents’ physical or mental health, or health-related behaviours, to their benefit or to their detriment. To study how change in our neighbourhoods might affect our health we need robust information but data showing how our neighbourhoods are changing, at a fine geographic scale, for the whole of Scotland, did not exist – until now! This is why we created an atlas showing what’s changed, and an interactive mapping application which allows you to explore the data yourself. Continue reading An atlas of change in Scotland’s built environment 2016-17

Children in deprived areas encounter shops selling tobacco six times more frequently than those in well-off areas

By Dr Fiona Caryl.

Our new study  looking at exposure of children to tobacco retailing, recently published in the journal Tobacco Control, shows that an average 10-to-11-year-old child in Scotland comes within 10m of a shop selling tobacco 43 times a week. This rises to 149 times a week for children living in the poorest areas—six times more than the 23 encounters a week experienced by children living in affluent areas. This demonstrates an unexpectedly large inequality in the amount of times children are exposed to tobacco sales. Unexpected because in the same study we showed that tobacco outlets are 2.6 times more common around the homes of children living in the most deprived areas than the least. Yet we found a six-fold difference in exposure because we used GPS trackers (fully consented and ethics-approved, of course) to follow exactly where children moved through their environments. We found that most exposure came from convenience stores (41%) and newsagents (15%) on school days, with peaks before and after school hours. At weekends, we found most exposure came from supermarkets (14%), with a peak around midday.

Why does this matter? This may not sound like a lot of exposure, and we might ask if a child is really exposed to tobacco just by being in or near a shop selling tobacco, especially after the ban on point-of-sale (POS) tobacco displays. But then we don’t actually know how many micro-exposures it takes to make a child think that smoking is a normal, acceptable and widespread behaviour rather than a major cause of premature death. Research into advertising suggests that the mere-exposure to indirect and incidental stimuli can influence attitudesnon-consciously when they’re repeatedly presented. The ban on POS tobacco displays has reduced children’s susceptibility to smoking, but children still notice tobacco on sale. In fact, recent research shows that the conspicuousness and prominence of tobacco in shops varies considerably between areas of high and low deprivation. And the difference in prominence has been increasing since the POS ban.

The difference in the number of times children in poor areas are in or near to places selling tobacco is most concerning when you consider the pathways leading people to start smoking. Most adult smokers start when they are teenagers, and the availability of tobacco products is a key factor in in why people start to smoke and why they find it hard to give-up. Our findings raise important questions about when and where tobacco products are sold and the messaging this is sending to children.

Urban health and neighbourhood effects: PhD studentships at Glasgow Uni

CRESH’s Rich Mitchell is part of the GCRF Funded Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods (SHLC) at the University of Glasgow. The centre is offering 3 new PhD studentships which include a focus on neighbourhood and city effects on health. More details and how to apply can be found below and via the University’s Website: http://bit.ly/SHLCPhD

Closing Date: 17 June 2018

Research Topic

Candidates are required to provide an outline proposal of no more than 1000 words. We are particularly interested in proposals that encompass any of the following topics:

a) The development and operationalisation of indicators/classification/measures of spatial differentiation (including its temporal evolution) of neighbourhoods within SHLC case study cities, and the implications of spatial differentiation for access to public services;

b) The development and operationalisation of indicators/classification/measures for lifelong learning in cities and neighbourhoods in the global south, including links to a range of life wide literacies;

c) Qualitative/ethnographic studies of neighbourhoods in SHLC case study cities paying particular attention to the interaction between urban, health and education challenges

d) Investigations of the impact of informality on social sustainability in neighbourhoods within SHLC case study cities, paying particular attention to the interaction between urban, health and education challenges

e) Understanding the relationships between neighbourhood-level and city-level influences on residents’ health, paying particular attention to variations by health outcome, person and/or SHLC case study city/country.

The award
Both Home/EU and International applicants are eligible to apply. The scholarship is open to +3 (3 years PhD only) commencing in October 2018 and will provide: a stipend at the ESRC rate, 100% tuition fee waiver, and access to the Research Training Support Grant.

How to Apply

All applicants should complete and collate the following documentation then attach to a single email and send to socsci-scholarships@glasgow.ac.uk with the subject line ‘GCRF SHLC Scholarship application‘ by 17 June 2018

  1. Academic Transcript(s) and Degree Certificate(s)

Final or current degree transcripts including grades and degree certificates (and official translations, if needed) – scanned copy in colour of the original documents.

  1. References

2 references on headed paper (academic and/or professional).

At least one reference must be academic, the other can be academic or professional. Your references should be on official headed paper. These should also be signed by the referee.

If your referees would prefer to provide confidential references direct to the University then we can also accept the reference by email, from the referee’s official university or business email account to socsci-scholarships@glasgow.ac.uk clearly labelling the reference e.g. “<applicant name> CoSS Scholarship Reference”

  1. Copy of CV
  2. Research Proposal 

Applicants are required to provide research proposal of not more than 1000 words. It should include:

  • a straightforward, descriptive, and informative title
  • the question that your research will address
  • a justification of why this question is important and worth investigating
  • an assessment of how your own research will engage with recent research on the subject
  • a brief account of the methodology and data sources you will use
  • References to sources cited in the proposal and an indicative wider bibliography (The references and bibliography are in addition to the 1000 words).

For more information please visit the University’s website (http://bit.ly/SHLCPhD) or contact SHLC’s Senior Business Manager Gail Wilson gail.wilson@glasgow.ac.uk

We’re recruiting a systems / agent-based modeller

We have a job going in Glasgow, at the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit. This position is focused on developing and applying complex systems models, including agent based models, to problems in population health. The post holder will work across the Complexity in Health Improvement and the Neighbourhoods and Communities research programme within the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow. The programmes are collaborating to understand how place-based interventions might improve health and reduce health inequalities.

The closing date is  21 February 2018. You need to apply via the University of Glasgow’s online system. The job reference is 020096,

The main purpose of this position is to contribute to the programmes’ research using complex system simulation methods. The postholder requires up to date knowledge, understanding and experience of complex systems simulation modelling (including agent based models) and knowledge/experience of computer programming languages or platforms suitable for this kind of work. The application of these methods to understanding and improving public health is relatively novel, but they have been applied in other fields such as ecology, economics and social policy. Experience in applying these methods to health is desirable, but not essential – experience from other fields would be welcome.

Main Duties and Responsibilities

Perform the following activities in conjunction with and under the guidance of the Programme Leaders (PLs).

1. Plan and conduct assigned research into how place and health are linked via complex systems, individually or jointly in accordance with the programmes’ development strategies.

2. Contribute to the programmes’ research in complex system simulation methods (including agent based models) through design, programming and implementation of simulation models in one or more project areas.

3. Document research output including analysis and interpretation of all data, maintaining records and managing databases, drafting technical/progress reports and papers as appropriate.

4. Develop and enhance your research profile and reputation and that of The University of Glasgow, SPHSU, and both the Complexity in Health Improvement and Neighbourhoods and Communities Programmes, including contributing to publications of international quality in high profile/quality refereed journals, enhancing the research impact in terms of economic/societal benefit, and gathering indicators of esteem.

5. Contribute to the presentation of work at international and national conferences, at internal and external seminars, colloquia and workshops to develop and enhance our research profile.

6. Contribute to the organisation, supervision, mentoring and training of less experienced members of the programme teams.

7. Contribute to the identification of potential funding sources and assist in the development of proposals to secure funding from internal and external bodies to support future research.

8. Collaborate with colleagues and participate in team/group meetings/seminars/workshops across SPHSU/Institute of Health and Wellbeing/ University and wider community (e.g academic partners).

9. Perform administrative tasks related to the activities of the research group including budgets/expenditure.

10. Contribute to outreach activities of the University of Glasgow.

11. Keep up to date with current knowledge and recent advances in the field/discipline.

12. Engage in personal, professional and career development to enhance both specialist and transferable skills in accordance with desired career trajectory.

13. Undertake any other duties of equivalent standing as assigned by Directors of cognate Research Institutes and/or PLs.

14. Contribute to the enhancement of the University’s International profile in line with the Strategic Plan, Glasgow 2020 – A Global Vision.

These key tasks are not intended to be exhaustive but simply highlight a number of major tasks which the staff member may be reasonably expected to perform.

Knowledge, Qualifications, Skills and Experience

Knowledge/Qualifications

Essential:
A1. Scottish Credit and Qualification Framework (SCQF) level 10 (Honours degree). May be working towards post-graduate qualification such as a Masters (SCQF level 11) or PhD (SCQF level 12) in a relevant discipline. Or equivalent professional qualifications in relevant academic/research discipline, and experience of personal development in a similar role.
A2. Up to date knowledge, understanding and experience of complex systems simulation (including agent based models).
A3. Knowledge of and experience with computer programming languages or platforms suitable for simulation modelling (these could include NetLogo, Repast, Python, C/C#, Java, etc.)

Desirable:
B1. Knowledge of population health research, ideally including public health improvement, social determinants of health and place-based influences on health.
B2. Knowledge of complex adaptive systems and their properties, including concepts such as emergence and self-organisation.

Skills

Essential:
C1. Demonstrable ability in complex systems modelling.
C2. Research creativity and cross-discipline collaborative ability as appropriate.
C3. Excellent communication skills (oral and written), including public presentations and ability to communicate complex data/concepts clearly and concisely.
C4. Excellent interpersonal skills including team working and a collegiate approach.
C5. Appropriate workload/time/project/budget/people management skills.
C7. Self motivation, initiative and independent thought/working.
C8. Initiative and judgement to resolve problems independently, including demonstrating a flexible and pragmatic approach.

Desirable:
D1. Ability to engage in knowledge transfer with non-academic audiences and public health advocacy organisations.
D2. Ability to use GIS software &/or R to handle spatial data.

Experience

Essential:
E1. Sufficient breadth and/or depth of knowledge in the specialist subject/discipline and of research methods and techniques.
E2. Experience of scientific writing.
E3. Proven ability to deliver quality outputs in a timely and efficient manner.

Desirable:
F1. Experience of working in an academic setting.
F2. Experience using open data or open source software.
F3. Evidence of an emerging track record of publications in a relevant field.

Job Features

Dimensions 
To develop and use complex systems models within an academic environment of the highest national or international quality.
Publish as appropriate to subject specialism within agreed timescales.
Informal support of less experienced members of the programmes’ teams e.g. postgraduate and project students.
Engage in personal, professional and career development to enhance both specialist and transferable skills in accordance with desired career trajectory.

Planning and Organising
Management of time and prioritisation of research, teaching and administrative duties.
Planning, organisation and implementation of research projects on a weekly/monthly basis.
Plan research directions that are within the available budget.
React to varying project needs and deadlines.

Decision Making
Undertake decision making on all aspects of research project/activities.
Support the programme leaders’ in identifying research opportunities
Adjust approaches to meet project outcomes
Identify best journals for publication and meetings/conferences to attend.
Identification of equipment and materials for purchase.

Internal/External Relationships
University colleagues: to exchange information to ensure efficient working and to facilitate cross disciplinary working.
External bodies/collaborators: proactively maintain co-operation and links at all levels to enhance profile and reputation.
Dissemination: Preparation and presentation of reports/results and participation in meetings and conference calls.

Problem Solving
Research including technical and theoretical aspects/problem solving and development of novel ideas
Be aware of project and budgetary issues, equipment lead times.
Assistance of undergraduate/postgraduate students and junior team members with problems relating to research project.

Other
Representation of the University/College/School through presentation at national and international events
Attendance at training events to learn and implement new research technologies.
Prepared to travel to meetings in the UK/Europe and elsewhere as required by the University.

Additional School/RI/College Information

The MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, Institute of Health and Wellbeing, University of Glasgow

The Unit’s aim is to promote human health by the study of social, behavioural, economic and environmental influences on health. We have five objectives:

• to study the multiple interacting processes through which biological, social, behavioural, economic and environmental factors influence physical and mental health over the lifecourse;
• to discover mechanisms which can modify these processes and have the potential to improve population health in a complex world;
• to develop translational interventions which harness these mechanisms to improve public health and reduce social inequalities in health;
• to evaluate interventions and policies in terms of their ability to improve public health and reduce social inequalities in health;
• to influence policy and practice by communicating the results and implications of research to policy, professional and lay audiences.

The Unit receives core funding from the UK Medical Research Council and Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office (CSO). The Unit is part of the Institute of Health and Wellbeing.

The Unit has six research programmes:

• Complexity in health improvement
• Measurement and analysis of socio-economic inequalities in health
• Social relationships and health improvement
• Understanding and improving health within settings and organisations
• Neighbourhoods and Communities
• Informing Healthy Public Policy

Unit staff and students come from a range of social and public health science disciplines including statistics, mathematics, epidemiology, public health medicine, nursing, natural sciences, human sciences, nutrition, sociology, anthropology, economics, psychology, geography, and history. The Unit is improving its impact on the environment through a Green Policy and has joined 10:10.

Neighbourhoods and Communities programme
The Neighbourhoods and Communities programme of research is focused on understanding how to make social and physical environments that are salutogenic and equigenic; that is which improve and equalise public health. We are particularly interested in understanding how different parts of the social and physical landscapes we live in connect together in systems and interact to affect our health. To do this, we are exploring new methods which reflect the fact that people move around within and between neigbourhoods, towns and cities, that urban environments change over time, and that the human and natural worlds are intricately connected.

Complexity in Health Improvement programme
The programme aims to develop and apply research methods for understanding and modelling the multiplicity of interdependent factors that influence population health, and to particularly apply these methods to the development and evaluation of interventions and policies to improve public health and/or reduce health inequalities.More details about the programmes are available at
https://www.gla.ac.uk/researchinstitutes/healthwellbeing/research/mrccsosocialandpublichealthsciencesunit/

Standard Terms & Conditions

Salary will be on the University’s Research and Teaching Grade, level 6, £28,098 – £31,604 per annum.

This post is full time and has funding until 31 March 2020.

New entrants to the University will be required to serve a probationary period of 6 months.

The successful applicant will be eligible to join the Universities’ Superannuation Scheme. Further information regarding the scheme is available from the Superannuation Officer, who is also prepared to advise on questions relating to the transfer of Superannuation benefits.

All research and related activities, including grants, donations, clinical trials, contract research, consultancy and commercialisation are required to be managed through the University’s relevant processes (e.g. contractual and financial), in accordance with the University Court’s policies.

Vacancy ref: 020096, Closing date: 21 February 2018.

It is the University of Glasgow’s mission to foster an inclusive climate, which ensures equality in our working, learning, research and teaching environment.

We strongly endorse the principles of Athena SWAN, including a supportive and flexible working environment, with commitment from all levels of the organisation in promoting gender equity.

The University of Glasgow, charity number SC004401.

More Info…

Changing places and mental health: do changes in perceptions of neighbourhood influence anxiety and depression in adults?

Written by Dr Jon Olsen, Research Associate with the Neighbourhoods and Communities programme, MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit. This blog is mirrored on the SPHSU website.

Mental health problems are a global issue. In 2013 over 615 million individuals suffered from anxiety and/or depression across the world, a rise of 50% since 1990. How people experience their local environment can impact on mental health. Living in areas that are perceived to have higher levels of neighbourhood problems such as poor housing quality, limited amounts of greenspace, industrial activity, and high traffic volume, has been linked to poorer mental health by some research studies. But, few studies have explored how change in what people think about their neighbourhood is linked to change in their mental health. It would be useful to know this as improving the neighbourhood environment could strengthen mental health.

In our recently published study, we wanted to see how changes in what people thought about their neighbourhood impacted on residents’ mental health over time. We looked at two mental health outcomes: anxiety and depression. Adults who lived in West Central Scotland, an area including Glasgow and eight neighbouring local authorities, were asked to complete the same questionnaire in 1997 and 2010.

Glasgow, United Kingdom – October 20, 2013: People come to walk around and shop at the historic Barras Market Place flea market.

What did we find?

Overall, anxiety and depression in the people we spoke to reduced between 1997 and 2010. However, those who experienced worsening neighbourhood perceptions from 1997 to 2010 also had increased anxiety and depression scores.

Why this matters

Our study showed that worsening neighbourhood perceptions were linked with small increases in anxiety and depression scores. People living in areas where perceptions of the neighbourhood got worse, did not benefit from the general improvements in anxiety and depression scores enjoyed by the population as a whole; this could widen health inequalities.

Wheelie bins (blue for recycling, green for general refuse) lined up for collection in a Glasgow alley.

 

The take home message from this study

There is a clear need for national and local policy to target areas where neighbourhood conditions are substantially deteriorating to ensure people’s mental health does not suffer.

Further information about the study

We used data from the Transport, Housing and Well-being study; a postal survey of adults in eight local authority areas in the west of Scotland in 1997 and 2010. More information and a link to the full questionnaire can be found here: http://thaw.sphsu.mrc.ac.uk/.

Anxiety and depression was measured using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS), a common measure of psychological distress that has been in use for over 30 years.

The full paper was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health and is freely available here.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are those of the author.

The MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit is funded by the Medical Research Council and the Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Medical Research Council or the Scottish Government.

Jobs at the GCRF Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods

Five Research Fellow posts are available at the GCRF Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods (SHLC). SHLC is one of the 37 major projects funded for 4 years by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Research Councils UK Collective Fund, which aims to build upon research knowledge in the UK, and strengthen research capacity overseas, to help address challenges in the developing countries.

SHLC will conduct comparative studies of urbanisation and the formation and differentiation of neighbourhoods in cities in order to address the challenges associated with large-scale rural-to-urban migration in Africa and Asia. The Centre, based at Glasgow, has eight international partners in South Africa, Tanzania, Rwanda, India, Bangladesh, China and the Philippines.

These jobs require expert knowledge in the areas of education, health, or urban studies in relation to developing countries from the perspective of development studies, geography, urban planning, urban studies, migration, public policy or other relevant social science disciplines.

Specifically, we expect each of the five posts to contribute specialist knowledge to the Centre in at least one of the following areas:

  • Cities, urbanisation and urban development in Africa, South Asia and/or East Asia
  • Education policy research and provision in developing countries
  • Health policy research and health facility provision in developing countries
  • Quantitative research and analytical skills including social survey, spatial analysis, GIS, Big Data.
  • Qualitative research and analytical skills and methods

    For further information and applying, please visit the following web site:
    https://www.gla.ac.uk/it/iframe/jobs/

    Search College of Social Sciences (Job Reference Number: 019448) Closing Date: 13th December 2017

GIS job – come and work with us

We have a great job going. It’s at the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit in Glasgow. Your role will be within the Neighbourhoods and Communities Programme . Your job will be to support the Programme Leader in developing research furthering our understanding of how social and physical environment might improve public health and reduce health inequalities. We’re looking for someone who can use GIS and write code. Specifically, you will be obtaining and preparing large spatial datasets, manipulating them in GIS, writing project specific code in a general purpose programming language, preferably Python or R, and carrying out research examining relationships between environment and population health. This job requires the ability to create and code innovative solutions to data handling and data analysis problems. Plenty of chances to contribute to publications and grant applications too. No need to have a PhD – we’re more interested in your skills…. 

More details, including how to apply, how much you could get paid etc here.

The closing date for applications is 22nd October.

Rich Mitchell would be delighted to discuss the post with you.

 

 Main Duties and Responsibilities

Perform the following activities in conjunction with and under the guidance of the Principal Investigator (PI):

1. Plan and conduct assigned research into environment and health, individually or jointly in accordance with the programme’s development strategy.

2. Contribute to the development and implementation of new methods and approaches to understanding how neighbourhood environments do, and might, affect health.

3. Develop, test and implement custom scripts/code to enable the handling and analysis of large spatial datasets.

4. Document research output including analysis and interpretation of all data, maintaining records and managing databases, drafting technical/progress reports and papers as appropriate.

5. Contribute to the organisation, supervision, mentoring and training of undergraduate and/or postgraduate students and less experienced members of staff of the project team to ensure their effective development.

6. Develop and enhance your research profile and reputation and that of The University of Glasgow, SPHSU and Neighbourhoods and Communities Programme, including contributing to publications of international quality in high profile/quality refereed journals, enhancing the research impact in terms of economic/societal benefit, and gathering indicators of esteem.

7. Contribute to the presentation of work at international and national conferences, at internal and external seminars, colloquia and workshops to develop and enhance our research profile.

8. Contribute to the identification of potential funding sources and assist in the development of proposals to secure funding from internal and external bodies to support future research.

9. Collaborate with colleagues and participate in team/group meetings/seminars/workshops across SPHSU/Institute of Health and Wellbeing/ University and wider community (e.g academic partners).

10. Perform administrative tasks related to the activities of the research group including budgets/expenditure.

11. Contribute to outreach activities of the University of Glasgow.

12. Carry out modest teaching activities (e.g demonstrating etc) and associated administration as assigned by the Directors of cognate Research Institutes and in consultation with Principal Investigators.

13. Keep up to date with current knowledge and recent advances in the field/discipline.

14. Engage in personal, professional and career development to enhance both specialist and transferable skills in accordance with desired career trajectory.

15. Undertake any other duties of equivalent standing as assigned by Directors of cognate Research Institutes and/or PIs.15. Contribute to the enhancement of the University’s International profile in line with the Strategic Plan, Glasgow 2020 – A Global Vision.

Salary Range£28,098 – £31,604 per annum