Growing recognition of SDHI in the APHA Disability Section

It is day 3 of the APHA Public Health Conference in San Francisco. While some of the presentations and sessions have suffered from a lack of attendance due to storm Sandy and possibly from a slight innovation fatigue the day has brought lots of interesting conversations and opportunities for disability, rehabilitation and health research. Just a few previews of what may develop into further collaborations: a Fullbright scholar exchange with SDHI that would allow us to deepen understanding of global disability measurement issues. Another positive development is that we will shortly announce additional webinars with academics from Cornell University and the University of Kansas. Further, there has been an interest from various parties in another conference on participation and disability, similar to the conference that we hosted in 2011. There are also concrete ideas to advance collaboration on research projects in the areas of physical activity and disability and disability measurement. Finally, steps have been taken to invigorate the online journal ‘Rehabilitation Process and Outcome’ with several manuscripts planned for submission. This very personal reflection does not capture the various experiences that other SDHI affiliated researchers have made. I will seek to capture some of those over the next few days as well. Next year’s APHA meeting will be held in Boston. It is entitled ‘Think global, act local’ and it will be a wonderful opportunity to showcase the spectrum of social dimensions research that is happening at the universities of Dundee and St Andrews. Sunny greetings from California!

SDHI @ APHA Day 2 Reflections 

Storm Sandy that has approached the East coast of the USA has disrupted air travel for a lot of delegates, some returned home after just a day in San Francisco. An interesting day nevertheless. The afternoon just concluded with a focus group on conference accessibility to which I was invited. APHA wants to be a leader in this area but still has a long way to go. As one conference delegate this afternoon told me, his personal assistant was denied access to the meeting exposition hall as he did not have a badge identifying him as a paid participant nor as a personal assistant. This is just one example that accessibility and assistance are not universally available to people with disabilities. It is still an erroneous and rights violating assumption that accessibility only needs to be an issue or concern for the disability section. What about the visually impaired epidemiologist who presents his work in the infectious disease section? What about the mobility impaired nurse who workes in community based health promotion? What about the statistician with cerebral palsy who relies on communication aids to convey findings of the latest national health statistics on obesity? You may get my point. I am not only talking about APHA but about practices in the UK and Scotland, in Higher Education as well as in the NHS. I am talking about the human right of full inclusion of people with disabilities in all areas of life, including academic conferences.

As for the content of the presentations in the Disability Section I cannot hide a certain degree of frustration as I see little progress over the years. We don’t seem to manage to move away from documenting the barriers and problems that people with disabilities face in health care and employment. Where are the innovative programmes? The best practices? Where are the evaluation research studies the knowledge transfer projects? 
Occasionally, we see presentations that position disability within a broader context, within the global challenges that affect all human beings: environmental changes and barriers, technological developments, an ageing demographic, the effect of economic marginalization. But so far I have not seen any presentation at this meeting that has tackled any of these issues. Also, we clearly focus most research on physical disabilities. Where are the people with learning disabilities or intellectual disabilities? Where is speech-impairment related research? Where is the presentation that explores health care issues for people with complex disabilities? Are we missing the point? 
The Social Dimensions of Health Institute benefits from its many diverse perspectives, disciplines and skills set and I can see how a social dimensions perspective is essential for an innovative focus in our understanding of disability and public health issues. 
A joint challenge for APHA, the Disability Section and SDHI is to move towards more participatory research and practices. 

SDHI @ APHA San Francisco Impressions

Maybe, it is the jetlag but as the first full conference day in San Francisco winds down I cannot help but think of the huge contradictions, the contrast between aspiration and living that I have seen after just a few hours in town. The largest gathering of public health professionals in the world with an expected 13,000 delegates with their shiny name badges on the one side, who are well shielded inside an enormous convention centre and multiple satellite hotels, well meaning and effortful; and the streets around Union Square and Market Street with all the glittering high end brand names with countless nameless people scattered in front of them who desperately clutch the paper cup that rattles with a few dimes and perhaps even quarters, not seeming to know what the next day will bring. Ingeniously, one street musician used empty plastic buckets and bottles to create something unique and captivating in the absence of ‘standard instruments’ while just a couple of blocks away a busy Jazz restaurant attracts a more affluent crowd, Memorable to me, the young man in his standard issue wheelchair, too unwieldy and large to be practical and a far cry from modern sports wheelchairs, who sought shelter in an entrance way to a shop. The number of blankets around him suggested that he would spend the night there. 

A country so large, so affluent still arguing about the benefits of universal health care coverage, with the highest health care expenditures in the world and with poorer health outcomes than far less wealthier nations. The presential election is less than a couple of weeks away. But who will vote? Who will make use of the vote?
This afternoon at the poster session, where the employment experiences after cancer study (Wells et al.) – which had involved several SDHI team members – was presented a lot of the discussion focussed on how employers can make adjustments in the workplace, especially when they perceive fundamental economic pressures themselves. 
More impressions from the sessions tomorrow, including Twitter.
Oh, and for the record, the San Francisco Giants have just won the World Series title beating the Detroit Tigers. 

Transformation – the new vision for the University of Dundee

The University of Dundee is currently presenting its new vision for the future, called ‘Transformation’.It is a positive, innovative and upbeat initiative with the ultimate goal of ‘transforming lives locally and globally through the creation, sharing and application of knowledge’. It emphasises five core values: valuing people, working together, integrity, making a difference and excellence. ‘Transformation’ sets out to tackle challenges and make a difference in three broad areas that are interconnected

– promoting the sustainable use of global resources
– shaping the future through innovative design
– improving social, cultural and physical well-being
It highlights the need for creative interdisciplinary working to achieve the highest impact and level of excellence. 
SDHI fully embraces these principles and thus, we believe we are well positioned to support this agenda with our work portfolio around interdisciplinary research, knowledge mobilisation and capacity and capability building. In this newsblog, we recently reflected on progress since the adoption of our strategy Building Bridges’. Many of the points discussed are aligned with the new vision of the university. Our focus on health, wellbeing and participation in the context of environmental, demographic, technological and economic developments largely reflects the three areas of ‘Transformation’. The local emphasis of engaging the public in our research (see upcoming ESRC Festival of Social Science/Dundee Science Festival ‘Taking control of wellbeing and social participation’ on the 3 November 2012 in the Dundee Central Library, Wellgate Shopping Centre), development of the institute and dissemination of findings is one example of our strong commitment to the local area. The increasing number of international speakers at conferences and symposia, the adoption of webinar technology, the use of social media, and the growing number of international collaborators in research reflects the global connectedness of SDHI. Finally, our research spans many disciplines across the two universities of Dundee and St Andrews, including but not limited to, human geography, environmental science, public health, nursing, primary care, social work, applied computing, art and design, health and social psychology, anthropology, which creates a unique vibrant learning, research and development environment. Some of our research examples involving SDHI researchers include the impact of environmental impacts on long-term conditions (asthma, stroke, dementia), assistive technology to support people with communication impairments, real time data collection using innovative mobile technology, and art interventions to support rehabilitation outcomes. They reflect how SDHI is already working across the three domains set out above.
The Principal of the University of Dundee, Professor Pete Downes highlighted in his presentation of ‘Transformation’ the need of creating interdisciplinary spaces for people to meet. We are very supportive of the new initiative and confident that SDHI will continue to serve as the creative, innovative environment that connects disciplines, forms relationships locally, and links people around the globe to make a difference and to transform lives. 

Good discussion at performance of ‘Caked’ tonight

The film ‘Caked’ illustrates the complex lives of some young carers who have to navigate challenges with regard to caring for a parent, friendships, sibling relationships and school. The film shows that there sometimes is not a single solution, a simple way to pursue. It is a fictitious snapshot in time without easy answers, without a recipe for success but with a lot of food for thought. This was reiterated by the young carers and professionals who made up tonight’s supportive audience.


What makes Patient-Reported Outcomes (PROMS) difficult to use for people with learning disabilities?

We have reported earlier on a Knowledge Transfer Partnership project that focuses on the usability of PROMS for people with learning disabilities and/or literacy. Also, we recently hosted a Webinar on this topic and project. Today, we are providing you with a weblink to an audio cast of a presentation on the topic given earlier this year as part of the Open University supported and hosted Social History of Learning Disability Conference in Milton Keynes. This year’s conference focus was ‘Health’. The two-day event was attended by people with learning disabilities, researchers, health and social care practitioners and disability advocate.

In a few weeks time, the project team will be running a workshop and dissemination event in Glasgow.

SDHI at the American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Conference and Expo in San Francisco

Several SDHI researchers from Dundee and St Andrews will be heading to San Franciso shortly to present research findings at this year’s Annual Meeting and Expo of the American Public Health Association. It is the largest global gathering of public health experts, researchers, practitioners and advocates with an expected 13,000 delegates. It is not only a fantastic opportunity to showcase state-of-the science research but also a venue for networking and development of research collaborations. ;

SDHI will be reporting from the event via Twitter using #APHA and #SDHIAPHA and on this blog. So, stay tuned for more.