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Optimising Making Every Contact Count (MECC) in voluntary and community settings (Ref: RDF21/HLS/SWECW/HAIGHTON)

Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

Dr K Haighton Friday, January 29, 2021 Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)
Newcastle United Kingdom Community Psychology Health Psychology Organisational Psychology

About the Project

Alcohol consumption, tobacco use, poor diet and lack of physical activity are all recognised as significant public health problems. Worldwide, harmful alcohol use causes 3 million deaths annually and 5.1% of the global burden of disease while tobacco use continues to be the leading global cause of preventable death. Globally, 39% of adults were overweight and 13% were obese in 2016, with raised body mass index (BMI) a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases. Despite the complex nature of these behavioural risk factors, evidence suggests that behaviour change interventions can be effective at helping reduce their impact on health.

A public health policy in the UK, Making Every Contact Count (MECC), is “an approach to behaviour change that utilises the millions of day to day interactions that organisations and people have with other people […] MECC enables the opportunistic delivery of consistent and concise healthy lifestyle information and enables individuals to engage in conversations about their health at scale” ( MECC encourages health care professionals and the wider workforce to deliver behaviour change interventions to people during routine consultations and contact.

Most research has focussed on the delivery of MECC by Health Care Professionals and has identified a number of barriers and facilitators to its delivery however much less is known about the delivery of MECC in voluntary and community settings. Importantly, such voluntary and community settings (such as food banks and credit unions) may be best placed to also reduce inequalities in health (unfair and avoidable differences in health across the population, and between different groups within society). MECC plus (a broader MECC approach which may include conversations to help people think about wider determinants such as debt management, housing and welfare rights advice) may also be more appropriate in these types of settings.

This project will explore the barriers and facilitators to MECC (plus) in voluntary and community settings and identify whether current training packages and other interventions targeted at encouraging MECC (plus) in voluntary and community settings target these barriers and facilitators. The project will utilise systematic reviewing, qualitative enquiry, ethnographic work including observation/analysis of naturally occurring data and behavioural analysis techniques using the Behaviour Change Wheel and Behaviour Change Techniques Taxonomy. Comparing interventions that aim to support and encourage implementation of MECC (plus) activity to the barriers and facilitators to MECC (plus) will allow for the identification of opportunities being missed and will facilitate intervention optimisation.

This PhD aligns with the multi-disciplinary research theme of Integrated Health and Social Care (Innovative health Interventions in context) and as such the successful candidate will work closely with a team of multi-disciplinary academics at Northumbria University (Professor Katie Haighton, Dr Angela Rodrigues, Professor Rob Wilson) as well as the North East and North Cumbria MECC Strategy Group all who have strong links with both the North East and North Cumbria Applied Research Collaboration and Fuse, the Centre for Translational Research in Public Health.

Eligibility and How to Apply:

Please note eligibility requirement:

·       Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.

·       Appropriate IELTS score, if required.

·       Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see 

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. RDF21/…) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: 29 January 2021

Start Date: 1 October 2021

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community.

Informal enquiries to Prof. Katie Haighton ()

Funding Notes

The studentship is available to Home students and includes a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2020/21, this is £15,285 pa) and full tuition fees.
Please note: to be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:
• Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or
• have settled status, or
• have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
• have indefinite leave to remain or enter


Haighton C, Newbury-Birch D, Durlik C, Sallis A, Chadborn T, Porter L, Harling M, Rodrigues A. Optimising Making Every Contact Count (MECC) interventions: A strategic behavioural analysis. 2020. Health Psychology (Under Review)
Haighton C, Rodrigues A, Newbury-Birch D, Durlik C, Sallis A, Porter L, Chadborn T. Making Every Contact Count (MECC), Alcohol and Smoking Brief Interventions: Systematic Literature Review and Behavioural Analysis: How do we encourage healthcare professionals to promote positive behaviour change amongst their patients? 2019. Public Health England.
Snowden, C., Lynch, E., Avery, L., Haighton, C., Howel, D., Mamasoula, V., Gilvarry, E., McColl, E., Prentis, J., Gerrand, C., Steel, A., Goudie, N., Howe, N., Kaner, E. 2020. Preoperative behavioural intervention to reduce drinking before elective orthopaedic Surgery: PRE-OP BIRDS Feasibility RCT NIHR HTA 24(12)
Aladeokin, A., Haighton, C. 2019. Is adolescent e-cigarette use associated with smoking in the United Kingdom? A systematic review with meta-analysis. Tobacco Prevention and Cessation: 5;15
Haighton, C., Moffatt, S., Howel, D., Steer, M., Becker, F., Bryant, A., Lawson, S., McColl, E., Vale, L., Milne, E, Aspray, T., White, M. 2019. Randomised controlled trial, economic and process evaluation of domiciliary welfare rights advice for socio-economically disadvantaged older people, recruited via primary health care (the Do-Well Study) [ISRCTN: 37380518] NIHR Public Health Research

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