Work Placement as Health Psychologist/Health Promotion Specialist, International Health Development Research Centre
My name is Carlos Ferreira da Costa and I am Portuguese. From December 1st 2010 until May 31th 2011, I am doing a work placement as a health psychologist/health promotion specialist, under the Leonardo da Vinci Mobility Programme, at the International Health Development Research Centre (IHDRC) at the University of Brighton, England. Through this article I would like to share my early experiences as a health psychologist/health promoter specialist at the IHDRC.
The IHDRC was established within the Faculty of Health and Social Science, “to provide a focus for research, development and consultancy related to knowledge development and dissemination in salutogenic and socio-ecological aspects of health and well-being. The work of IHDRC is based on the philosophy of health, not just disease, and belief in participation and empowerment, social justice and equity” (IHDRC, 2009). The IHDRC specialises in working at an international level relating its work to local action under the banner “Think Global: Act Local”. The projects undertaken by IHDRC include projects related to the fields of health promotion, health education, public health, healthy public policy and related socio-ecological approaches to health development.
My role is to support various IHDRC activities, but my main function is collaborating on the project “Establishing the University of Brighton as a Health Promoting University (HPU)”. This is a two year research project (May 2009 – July 2011) to determine the feasibility of developing the University of Brighton as an HPU with the overall goal to contribute to the improved health and wellbeing of all university students, staff and wider community. The project has four main objectives “(1st) to create a healthy and sustainable working, learning and living environment for all students, staff and visitors; (2nd) to increase the profile of health and sustainable development in teaching, research and knowledge exchange; (3rd) to contribute to the health and sustainability of the wider community; and (4th) to monitor and evaluate progresses and build evidence of effectiveness” (Davies & Newton, 2010, p. 3). As such, “this two-year project explores whether positive health and wellbeing can become sustainably embedded into university of life, and how health promoting activities can become intrinsic components of the university’s structures and policies” (Ramm & Hall, in press, p. 4).
This research project is divided in 2 stages:
1st Stage – Launch of the HPU initiative including initial interventions, support infrastructure and initial scoping needs assessment with key stakeholders (May 2009 – May 2010)
2nd Stage – Practical delivery of recommendations from the 1st Stage including a series of pilot interventions and implementation of a comprehensive monitoring and evaluating system (May 2010 – July 2011)
The first phase of the project (2009-2010) consisted of two components: (i) a review of the academic literature on health promoting universities, alongside a review of internal ‘grey’ literature related to the University of Brighton itself, and (ii) A series of in-depth interviews and a workshop with stakeholders from across the University. Results from the first phase are published in an interim review, entitled “Developing the University of Brighton as a Health Promoting University: an interim review” (Davies, J.K. & Newton, J., 2010).
The second phase is now underway until July 2011 and it focuses on the practical implementation of some of the recommendations from the interim review. Currently we are monitoring ongoing activities at the University which reflect concepts and principles of an HPU, organized by a number of different groups from the University. These include a contribution to the Student Union-led ‘buddying’ scheme; developing and implementing a cross-campus ‘Walking Campus’ scheme; an allocation of funds to each of the Environmental Action Networks (EANs) to develop and implement a sustainable health intervention; a faculty-oriented project examining Communication and Sense of Community, as well as other projects which are currently being defined.
Up until this point, I have been mostly involved in the preparation work needed before the launch of the second phase of the project. I am very much looking forward to the monitoring and evaluation activities that will review the activities mentioned above. It will be very interesting to have the opportunity to see how the outcomes and recommendations from the interim review (J. Davies & J. Newton, 2010) are being implemented across the 5 different campuses of the University of Brighton. We hope that we can achieve the objective of the project: that the University of Brighton has started to be a healthy place for studying and working.
I encourage anyone to take up the chance of having an experience like this. To have the opportunity to work in Health Promotion, for six months in a different country and a different language has been an amazing challenge. It has not only allowed me to put into practice learning from my BSc in Psychology and MSc in Health Psychology, but also to extend it. It has also enabled me to develop my language skills and has offered me a great professional and life experience.
Davies, J. K. & Newton, J. (2010). Developing the University of Brighton as a Health Promoting University: an interim review. Brighton: University of Brighton, UK.
International Health Development Research Centre (2009). IHDRC: About us [online]. Available at http://www.brighton.ac.uk/snm/research/ihdrc/aboutus/index.php?PageId=690 [Accessed 7 February 2011].
Ramm, J. & Hall, C. (in press). Developing the University of Brighton as a Health Promoting University – The story so far.