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PhD Studentship: Prevention of obesity, diabetes, and some cancers in early childhood: translation of the 'Toybox' pre-school intervention to Scotland

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Profile Description

Funded by The Cunningham Trust
Summary of PhD project
This is a call for applications for a fully funded PhD studentship at the University of Strathclyde, in the area of physical activity and health. The aim of this PhD project is to evaluate the feasibility of a nursery-based intervention (ToyBox) to improve key health behaviours of preschool children in Scotland.

‘ToyBox' ( is a low-cost (5-29 Euro per child, per pre-school year) generalisable European pre-school intervention aimed at disease prevention. ToyBox was developed following best practice based on theory and evidence, and tested in 6 nations (Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Poland, Spain), 309 nurseries, and 7,056 children over one pre-school year. ToyBox targeted four key health behaviours in early life, mainly at nursery but with family/home involvement: reduced screen-time (TV and DVD viewing, screen based gaming); increased water consumption (as a means of reducing sugar-sweetened drink consumption); reduced consumption of sweets; increased overall physical activity. ToyBox achieved reductions in screen time which were cost-effective and which translated to substantial reductions in later risk of diabetes. Differences in nursery provision between the rest of Europe and Scotland (e.g. children start school later in much of the rest of Europe; the emphasis on health in nursery varies across the EU) mean that the feasibility of ToyBox must be established in Scotland before efficacy and effectiveness can be tested in a randomised controlled trial, and before ToyBox could be considered for 'roll out' across Scotland.

The PhD will involve

1. A systematic review of a relevant topic
2. Evaluating the feasibility of the ToyBox intervention in a sample of Scottish nurseries using both qualitative and quantitative elements

Number of scholarships – 1
Value – Home/EU fees and a full stipend for 3 years
Opens – Immediately
Closes – 31st May, 2016
Helps with – The studentship will cover Home/EU fees and a full stipend of £15,000 in year one rising to £16,000 by year three. Non-EU students can apply by demonstrating that they have sufficient additional funds to cover the difference between EU and non-EU fees.
Duration – 3 years

To apply for the scholarship, you should:

• Have (or expect to gain) at least a 2:1 honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant discipline. An MSc in a relevant area is also highly desirable.
• Be available to commence your academic studies in the UK by the start of the UK academic year on 1st October 2016.

Further Information

We present a strong multidisciplinary team for supervision of this PhD research. Professor John Reilly will bring expertise in the aetiology of childhood obesity, methodology for the outcome measures in the proposed ToyBox trial (diet, physical activity, sedentary behaviour, body composition), and systematic reviewing. Dr Adrienne Hughes will bring expertise in childhood obesity prevention interventions, behaviour change methodology, the development and evaluation of interventions, and randomised trial methodology. Dr Ann-Marie Gibson will bring expertise in using qualitative methods to evaluate the feasibility and implementation of the intervention trial. The studentship involves a collaboration with the University of Durham (Professor Carolyn Summerbell) and Harokopio University, Athens (Professor Yannis Manios), and the successful student should expect to spend some time working in both Athens and Durham.



Funding Notes

Some or all of the PhD opportunities in this programme have funding attached. Applications for this programme are welcome from suitably qualified candidates worldwide. Funding may only be available to a limited set of nationalities and you should read the full programme details for further information.

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