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Social network assessment tools: valuing and measuring their place in health and social care research with older people. (WhittyJ-PolandF-U20SF)

School of Health Sciences

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Prof J Whitty , Prof Fiona Poland No more applications being accepted Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Crossing health and social science disciplines this PhD will critically evaluate the utility of a social network tool within current modes of social connectedness, exploring whether the quality and obligated nature of the social connection matters and the use of social network tools within health economic evaluations.

Understanding social networks is important if we are to understand the ways in which older people remain socially connected within their communities. Health and social care interventions increasingly have a focus on enabling those with complex health needs to remain living at home. Types and intensity of community relationships and connections have transformed in recent years with the increased use of information technology to remain connected and supported. A social network tool is now needed which measures and typifies peoples’ social connections and identifies which types of social networks are more likely to enhance social inclusion.

The research can be shaped to suit the interest of the successful candidate, therefore it would be applicable to people with an academic background in either health economics or health and social care related research. The supervisory team (Professors Whitty and Poland and Dr Birt) reflect the cross-disciplinary nature of the work. Whitty has expertise in the development of outcome measures and in priority setting in health and social care (e.g. Weale et al 2016; Whitty et al. 2014;McMillan et al. 2014). Poland has expertise in social and community research including the importance of social networks for social inclusion (Charlesworth et al 2007; Wilson et al., 2008).

The PhD will use a variety of research methods: systematic reviewing to identify social network tools, co-production with lay people to develop or revise a social network tool, qualitative data collection to understand its utility and preliminary testing to quantify the tools utility in health economic evaluation.

The PhD will be affiliated with the Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) East of England.


For more information on project supervisor 1, please visit: https://people.uea.ac.uk/jennifer_whitty
For more information on project supervisor 2, please visit: https://people.uea.ac.uk/f_poland
Type of programme: PhD
Application deadline: 1st July 2020
Start date of project: October 2020.
Mode of study: full time.
Location: UEA.
Entry requirements:
a) acceptable first degree in n health and social care related studies, health economics, psychology, medical sociology
b) The standard minimum entry requirement is 2:1. M-level qualification with some research experience in health or social care related area

Funding Notes

This PhD project is offered on a self-funding basis. It is open to applicants with funding or those applying to funding sources. Details of tuition fees can be found at http://www.uea.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/research-degrees/fees-and-funding


i) Charlesworth, G., Tzimoula, X., Higgs, P., Poland, F. (2007) "Social networks, befriending and support for family carers of people with dementia", Quality in Ageing and Older Adults, Vol. 8 Issue: 2, pp.37-44, https:// doi.org/10.1108/14717794200700011

ii) Wilson, E, Thalanany, M, Shepstone, L, Charlesworth, G, Poland, F, Harvey, I, Price, D, Reynolds, S, Mugford, M (2008) Befriending carers of people with dementia: a cost utility analysis. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, (www.interscience.wiley.com) DOI: 10.1002/gps.2164 http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/112161699/issue

iii) Weale, A., Kieslich, K., Littlejohns, P., Tugendhaft, A., Tumilty, E., Weerasuriya, K. and Whitty, JA. Introduction: Priority Setting, Equitable Access and Public Involvement in Health Care. Journal of Health Organization and Management 2016;30(5): 736-750

iv) Whitty JA, Ratcliffe J, Chen G, Scuffham PA. Australian Public Preferences for the Funding of New Health Technologies: A Comparison of Discrete Choice and Profile Case Best Worst Scaling Methods. Med Dec Making 2014; 34(5):638-654, DOI: 10.1177/0272989X14526640

v) McMillan SS, Kelly F, Sav A, Kendall E, King MA, Whitty JA, Wheeler AJ. Using the nominal group technique: How to analyse across multiple groups. Health Services and Outcomes Research Methodology 2014; 14:92-108

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