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Inclusive Design for Future Oral Health Scenarios; A lifespan design approach investigating mainstream and extreme oral health pathways

Project Description

The University of Liverpool has set up a Doctoral Training Network in Technologies for Healthy Ageing to train the next generation of physical scientists and engineers to develop novel technologies and devices to address the challenges faced by older people and our clinical colleagues who work with them. All students will undertake a specific training programme in conjunction with their research project and have the support of a cohort structure.

Oral health status can have a significant impact upon an individual’s quality of life. Poor oral health and tooth loss can affect the basic day to day functions of chewing and speech that can have physical and psychosocial impacts that persist throughout life. Despite a great shift towards preventative strategies to encourage good dietary and oral health practices, preventable diseases such as dental caries and periodontal disease remain prevalent across all age groups. Additional biological, physical, and sociological factors such as age and stage, physical and mental health, and physical and neuro-cognitive ability can further impact an individual’s access to and quality of dental care. Subgroups such as the older population; children and young adults; and neurodiverse, and physically disabled individuals; may be subjected to additional systemic health inequalities and exclusions that could be improved through greater research and an inclusive design & innovation mindset.

Adopting an inclusive design approach helps identify a holistic and diverse set of extreme oral health scenarios across primary, community and special care settings. This could inform the design of more inclusive primary and community care settings and lead to less demand for special care services, while improving the quality and inclusivity of the experience. Furthermore, physical barriers to access to oral health has been the main focus of health inequalities research so far. An inclusive design approach would help identify and converge both physical and psychosocial barriers to access and quality of oral health, through investigating neurodiversity and lifestyle exclusions, as well as physical disability and age-related decline.

Aim & Scope
Adopting inclusive design and lifespan design approaches, this PhD research aims to:
1. Explore mainstream and extreme oral health scenarios across paediatric, adult and geriatric population and identify key subgroups;
2. Create oral health experience maps for identified subgroups through capturing access, quality, and support needs and issues across every stage, and highlighting key design opportunities and insights;
3. Develop an Inclusive Oral Health Classification System evaluating an individual’s capabilities and demands (physical and psychosocial) and a tagging system indicating oral health support and services needed.

Mixed methodology of qualitative and quantitative data capture and analysis is proposed. This interdisciplinary PhD research converges two distinctive avenues of healthcare research including ‘Exploring the Data’ and ‘Understanding People and Context’.
Healthcare data analysis - Risk data, Quality data, Patient data, and Strategic datasets might be explored and interrogated within primary, community and special care setting in order to identify patterns and priorities and generate insights across paediatric, adult and geriatric patient groups. Human centred understanding - Ethnographic research methods and user experience mapping will be conducted with identified subgroups, in order to understand the problem space and inform the challenges identified through data insights. This may lead to strategic design recommendations to assist healthcare providers with the services they offer, as well as improving the overall patient experience.

This is an excellent opportunity to conduct an original and timely PhD research with a strong interdisciplinary focus. You will be supervised by an interdisciplinary expert team including Dr Nickpour (inclusive design & human centred innovation) and Dr Longridge (restorative dentistry and endodontics specialist).

Strong, ambitious and highly dedicated applicants are encouraged to apply. Fields such as social gerontology, disability studies, and childhood studies, will be explored alongside core design fields including inclusive design, human centred design and meaning centred design, UX design, and speculative design. A background or experience in healthcare design, specifically oral health and dentistry is highly desirable.

The ILCMS is fully committed to promoting gender equality in all activities. In recruitment, we emphasize the supportive nature of the working environment and the flexible family support that the University provides. The Institute holds a silver Athena SWAN award in recognition of on-going commitment to ensuring that the Athena SWAN principles are embedded in its activities and strategic initiatives.

Enquiries to: Dr Farnaz Nickpour

To apply: please send your CV and a covering letter to Luine McRae () with a copy to
Expected interview date/week in July either in person or virtually if necessary under the current conditions

Funding Notes

We are seeking strong and ambitious candidates with a minimum of 2:1 (or equivalent) first degree in Design or a highly relevant subject. Previous knowledge and experience in inclusive design, human centred design, UX design, and healthcare or medical device design – specifically dentistry, and/or similar areas is highly desirable. Strong communication, interdisciplinary approach, and team working skills is required.

This is a full studentship. The studentship will cover fees and standard Research Council stipend (£15,285 for 2020 – 21) plus £1000 per annum towards consumables and conference costs for a duration of 3.5 years.

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