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Oliver Sanders: My DECIPHer Placement

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I am currently 19 years old, and a second year Psychology student at the University of the West of England. As part of my BSc Psychology, I have to undertake a placement, within which I wanted to engage in an area of work that interests me, and where I could learn some useful skills closely related to my degree. I’ve been a part of DECIPHer’s young people’s advisory group, ALPHA since 2012, where I have been presented with a variety of opportunities, including co-authoring a blog and an article for the NIHR “INVOLVE newsletter, as well as contributing to many research proposals and projects over the years. My time at ALPHA has increased my interest and understanding of public health research, and as a result, public health is now an area of personal interest for me. I have also been lucky enough to visit the University of St Andrews in Scotland as an ALPHA representative to take part in a conference about the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) survey, the purpose of which was to encourage researchers to start involving young people in their work more.

Having developed an interest in public health, I decided I’d like to improve my understanding of the subject area. I contacted Hayley Reed, Involving Young People Research Officer at ALPHA, to see whether a placement could be organised so I could get some more hands on experience of public health research. She swiftly arranged my placement at DECIPHer where I would be shadowing her at meetings and given my own projects to work on independently. Whist at DECIPHer I attended the monthly Public Health Improvement Research Network ’Research Ideas Development Group’, allowing me to see the fundamental inception of research projects and how they are dealt with in their early stages, which was very new and interesting to me. I was also lucky enough to attend a conference with Dr Jeremy Segrott, organised to discuss findings of a recent study called Building Blocks, led by Cardiff University to evaluate the Family Nurse Partnership (FNP), a programme that offers additional help for first time teenage mothers.

I also helped organise this month’s ALPHA meeting, documenting expected attendees and condensing the agenda into an easy-to-read PowerPoint Presentation. I have learnt more about the dissemination of research and how it can be carried out; I attended a seminar with Hayley where researchers from Children’s Social Care Research and Development Centre (CASCADE) shared their findings with other staff from Cardiff University from the LACE research project. I was also able to watch a School Health Research Network webinar from within DECIPHer by PhD student Hannah Littlecott, where she used webinar technology to disseminate her research findings to schoolteachers.

Upon reflection of my placement at DECIPHer, I have definitely developed a deeper understanding of the Public Health research field as a whole. It has exposed me to some of the realities of Public Health research, which has really opened my eyes to the challenges and complexity of the work undertaken at DECIPHer. This is something I feel I would not be able to attain from my Undergraduate degree alone. I am also very grateful to work with a group of such lovely people that are so passionate about their work.