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Exploration and development of self-management strategies for people with intellectual disabilities who have asthma

   School of Health and Social Care

About the Project

Respiratory disorders are one of the leading causes of death in people with intellectual disabilities (PWID)). Furthermore, people with LD are more likely to be infected with COVID 19 and to have severe respiratory health outcomes compared to the general population. Asthma is a respiratory disorder that is more prevalent in PWID than in the general population - nearly double the rate of frequency. PWID also have higher hospital admissions for asthma compared to the general population. 

It is recommended that those living with asthma are supported to self-manage their condition. Effective asthma management requires a good knowledge of asthma, its triggers and treatment including correct inhaler technique, an ability to recognise worsening asthma and use of an asthma action plan. For PWID promoting asthma self-management is challenging as they are likely to have other complex health issues.  PWID also rely on carers to help them self-manage their health. Carers tend to be family members or support workers rather than qualified health professionals therefore both PWID and their caregivers need asthma education and training with the availability of specially tailored educational resources. 

Research undertaken in the general population has indicated that written action plans improve clinical outcomes for those with asthma as they help people respond to worsening asthma. Asthma action plans have been recommended internationally for over 20 years and pictorial asthma action plans are acceptable for individuals from diverse cultural and educational backgrounds, but it is not known how these could be used by PWID or their carers. It is also known that people living with asthma and their carers should be involved in personalising their asthma action plans and tailoring the plans for each individual. However, how those with ID could be facilitated to co-produce their asthma plans has never been investigated. 

We are proposing a two phased mixed methods doctoral study to address this gap. Phase 1 could explore: (i) PWID’s and caregivers’ views, knowledge and experiences of asthma, for example awareness of environmental triggers for asthma and, (ii) their support needs in order to self-manage asthma. Phase 1 could be completed using interviews, focus groups and/or surveys. The use of specific methods could depend on the candidate’s interests and intended focus of the project. Phase 2 could inform development and co-production of a personalised asthma self-management action plan for use by those with ID and their carers. This doctoral project provides a unique opportunity to contribute to a respiratory programme of research focusing on those with ID that is being developed at Edinburgh Napier University (ENU). The supervisory team consists of those with a background of working with PWID (Dr Lisa O’Leary and Dr Janet Finlayson) and in the use of asthma action plans /respiratory health (Dr Nicola Ring and Dr Nicola Roberts) and is a collaboration between ENU and Glasgow Caledonian University. Dr O’Leary is affiliated with the Health and Social Care Sciences subject group and Dr Ring is affiliated with the Nursing subject group. The successful candidate will have access to networks and expertise within both of these subjects groups and universities.  


Academic qualifications

A first degree (at least a 2.1) ideally in a health or social care discipline  with a good fundamental knowledge of  qualitative and quantitative research methods.


English language requirement

IELTS score must be at least 6.5 (with not less than 6.0 in each of the four components). Other, equivalent qualifications will be accepted. Full details of the University’s policy are available online.


Essential attributes:

·        Experience of fundamental qualitative and quantitative research methods  

·        Competent in literature searching

·        Knowledge of and experience of working with vulnerable groups

·        Good written and oral communication skills

·        Strong motivation, with evidence of independent research skills relevant to the project

·        Good time management

Desirable attributes:

Knowledge and/or experience of working with individuals with respiratory conditions such as asthma

MSc in research methods or similar postgraduate qualification 

Experience of using quantitative and/or qualitative research methods such as surveys, questionnaires, interviews or focus groups

Experience of using quantitative and/or qualitative data analysis software such as NVivo and/or SPSS 

Please quote reference SHSC0023 on your application


• Completed application form

• CV

• 2 academic references, using the Postgraduate Educational Reference Form (Found on the application process page)

• A personal research statement (This should include (a) a brief description of your relevant experience and skills, (b) an indication of

what you would uniquely bring to the project and (c) a statement of how this project fits with your future direction.)

• Evidence of proficiency in English (if appropriate)



Funding Notes

This is an unfunded position

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