How, when, and where can preconception interventions be utilised in Scotland?


   Graduate School

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  Dr Karen Barton, Dr Adilia Lemos  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

PhD Studentship: R-LINCS2 funded. The Studentship is available for an October 2022, February or June 2023 start.

A PhD studentship that comprises tax-free stipend of £16,062 (increasing in line with UKRI per annum) per year over 3.5 years, tuition fees paid, and a generous study package (e.g. limited research consumables, travel budget, and training when appropriate).

The pan-University Graduate School offers an integrated training programme to the postgraduate community within a single centre, serving to inculcate interdisciplinary working in our next generation of researchers.

Interviews are likely to be in early September in person or online.

Project Description:

Preconception is currently an under-utilised period in an individual’s life where positive behaviour changes can be made that influence the health of unborn children with positive long-term health benefits for the population. This project aims to understand the currently secretive nature of pregnancy planning and develop novel interventions to achieve optimum nutrition before and during pregnancy which will provide effective opportunities to address future inequalities in health. This area is lacking in considerable research and commitment to prevent future health needs.

Key project objectives:

  1. To review policy documents and literature to establish the current landscape with regards to preconception interventions in Scotland.
  2. To understand the prevalence of risk factors/ indicators of preconception health to establish relationship between preconception health indicators, pregnancy & birth outcomes in Scotland.
  3. To utilise mixed methods research to understand and create opportunities for future health improvements by development of theory-based interventions to improve maternal/infant health.
  4. To test the feasibility of implementing preconception interventions that will have most impact.

Until the last decade, it has not been a key priority in Scotland to improve preconception care despite it being well known that better preconception health equals better population health. Improvements are currently needed to the Scottish education system, NHS Scotland, and non-health agencies nationwide as well as a societal change in attitude towards pregnancy planning and preconception. Preconception care primarily aims to improve maternal and infant outcomes. Nevertheless, as most pregnancies are not planned, general good health and wellbeing of the population bring benefits to all.

This project will comprise four stages with the first three involving the collection of data on the barriers and enablers to preconceptual and early pregnancy health. The findings will inform the implementation of lifestyle interventions to improve preconceptual and early pregnancy health (stage four). The project will provide a new knowledge base about what women and their partners need and will respond to and make recommendations on how these can be translated into practice / policy. 

Outcomes of this project will be disseminated to NHS Tayside, the Scottish Government Preconception Framework group, and other relevant bodies, including public audiences. Recommendations will be provided on how research findings can be translated into practice/policy. Results will be published in relevant peer reviewed journals. In addition, they will be presented at national and international conferences. 

Supervisory Team:

The candidate will be supervised within the Division of Food Science and Engineering by Dr Karen Barton and Dr Adilia Lemos. Queries on this project should be directed to Dr Karen Barton ([Email Address Removed]).

Entry Requirements:

Candidates must have, a first-class degree in a Nutrition programme, or a closely aligned discipline. We are looking for an independent, enthusiastic, and driven candidate with a good understanding of preconceptual nutrition. Applicants should have experience (or a good understanding) of designing and running lifestyle interventions to improve public health nutrition. A good understanding or experience of research methods and statistical analysis is also desirable.

The successful candidate should have some experience of working with hard to reach groups (including those of low income). Candidates must be able to work well with others and represent the university when working with key stakeholders (e.g. NHS, Government Bodies).

For applicants who are non-native speakers of English, the University requires IELTS of 6.5 (with no band less than 6.0) or an equivalent qualification accepted by the Home Office.

Applications and closing date: 29th August 2022

Applicants should submit through the Abertay University jobs page, submitting a personal statement of application detailing why you are interested in undertaking this project, and a CV.

Abertay University was named The Times and The Sunday Times University of the Year for Teaching Quality 2021. According to the results of the Research Excellence Framework 2021, Abertay recorded 60% of its research judged as 'internationally excellent' or 'world-leading', a 23% increase since the last REF2014 – the biggest climb of any Scottish university. Abertay was the first University in the world to offer a degree in games and in March 2017 and was top ranked in Europe for both Undergraduate and Postgraduate courses in 2019.

We hold an Athena SWAN Institutional Bronze award and were the first Scottish university to achieve the Race Equality Charter Mark.

Entry requirements

Essential requirements:

  • First class honours degree in Nutrition or a closely aligned discipline
  • Good interpersonal and communication skills
  • Experience of working and communicating with hard to reach groups
  • Experience of working with key stakeholders in public health (e.g. Community Groups, NHS, Government Bodies)
  • Experience of being able to communicate with different audiences using appropriate mediums e.g. written, verbal, visual
  • Good working knowledge of qualitative and quantitative research methods and experimental designs, including the ability to write scientific documents
  • Applicants who are non-native speakers of English, the University requires IELTS of 6.5 (with no band less than 6.0) or an equivalent qualification accepted by the Home Office

Desirable requirements (but not essential)

  • Registered Nutritionist with Association for Nutrition
  • Experience in research within the field of preconceptual nutrition / public health nutrition
  • Involvement in the preparation of articles for publication in scientific journal(s)
  • Knowledge of advanced statistical methods.
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