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Control of seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever) helps prevent asthma attacks – testing the feasibility of a patient-focussed mobile (M-) health intervention

Project Description

We are offering a PhD opportunity, based within the The Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research (AUKCAR), in applied asthma research for the academic year 2019/20.

Allergic rhinitis (AR) is a frequent co-morbidity of asthma in children, young people and adults, which has been associated with poor asthma control and increased risk of asthma attacks. Clinical experience indicates that adherence to and technique of AR treatment (nasal corticosteroids) is often poor. Consistent AR treatment improves asthma control and thus may help prevent asthma exacerbations. This may be particularly relevant in people who have both asthma and seasonal AR (hay fever) who are at an increased risk of asthma attacks during the hay fever season.

There is currently a strong interest in M-health interventions in the management of asthma and seasonal AR. M-health uses mobile communication technology e.g. to prompt individuals to take their treatment and may thus increase treatment adherence. If successful M-health targeted at people with asthma and AR could offer an economical and scalable solution to reduce AR associated asthma attacks.

In this project, we aim to develop an M-Health intervention for people with asthma, seasonal AR and previous asthma exacerbations during the hay fever season. The Intervention will use serial messaging will remind participants to start their AR treatment prior to the onset of AR symptoms and to continue this throughout the hay fever season, providing additional alerts for high pollen count days. This will be in addition to participants’ concurrent asthma treatment. We will assess 1) acceptability, uptake and feasibility of this intervention, 2) AR treatment adherence, effect on AR symptom scores and quality of life and 3) effects on asthma symptoms / asthma attacks to obtain pilot data for a definitive study.

The methods employed in this project will include
- Development of an M-health intervention in consultation with clinicians and patients
- Participant identification from asthma/allergy clinics and GP data
- Conducting a pilot/ feasibility trial in children and adults comparing intervention to no intervention
- Qualitative assessment (interviews)
- Quantitative assessment of symptoms scores, quality of life scores and asthma attacks (AR and asthma questionnaires, e.g. weekly brief questionnaires by M-health).
- Association of asthma attacks / symptoms with pollen count data.
- Potential integration of the AR M-health intervention with asthma action plans.

• Prof Jürgen Schwarze, Child Life and Health, University of Edinburgh.
• Prof Aziz Sheikh, Usher Institute of Population Health Sciences and Informatics, University of Edinburgh

In collaboration with:
• Prof Andrew Bush, National Heart and Lung Institute Imperial College London

A strong academic track record with a 2:1 or higher in a relevant undergraduate degree, or its equivalent if outside the UK. Proven experience in one or more of the following is desirable: qualitative research, M/E-health, clinical studies, and management of atopic disease. The successful candidate will work in a highly interdisciplinary environment and should be able to work independently and as part of a team.
Following interview, the selected candidate will need to apply and be accepted for a place on the Usher Institute Population Health Sciences PhD programme. Details about the PhD programme can be found here:

Application procedure
Please provide a CV, a personal statement detailing your research interests and reasons for applying, list of projects in order of preference to be considered for shortlisting, degree certificate(s), marks for your degree(s) and the names of two academic references (we will only contact references for successful applicants).
All documents should be in electronic format and sent via e-mail to: Lauren Blake ()

The closing date for applications is: 27th September 2019

Interviews will be held on 23rd October 2019

Funding Notes

The awards are available for three years’ full-time study, providing tuition fees (Home/EU rate), stipend and a small amount of consumables.
For overseas fee-paying students, the fee waived would be at the home/EU rate and successful applicants will need to pay the difference in the tuition fee if assessed as overseas.

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