PhD opportunity @BIBResearch @BIHResearch & School of Sport & Exercise Sciences @universityleeds

PhD opportunity at Born in Bradford, Bradford Institute for Health Research and the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Leeds.

Social and environmental influences on physical activity levels in a bi-ethnic sample of children living in areas of high deprivation. 

Setting for PhD: The PhD candidate will work in our dynamic and multidisciplinary Born in Bradford (BiB) Research Team ( at Bradford Institute for Health Research (BIHR) and with senior academics from the School of Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Leeds.  The student’s supervisors will be Dr Sally Barber (BIHR) and Dr Karen Birch (University of Leeds).  On successful completion, the student will be awarded a PhD from the Faculty of Biological Sciences, University of Leeds.

Born in Bradford is one of the largest and most exciting health research projects in the UK. This family cohort study aims to examine lifestyle, environmental, psychological and genetic factors that impact on health and development perinatally, during childhood and subsequent adult life.  Between 2007 and 2010 nearly 14,000 women and their babies were recruited to the study.  Now that the children are aged 6 – 9 years old BiB researchers and school nurses will be re-visiting them to take measures of their health, wellbeing, family and social circumstances.

Background for research: Increasing physical activity is essential for improving population health, especially in children since physical activity tracks across the lifespan.  The benefits of physical activity during childhood are well documented and include: improved cardio-metabolic profile, muscle and bone health, reduced risk of obesity, better mental health and improved academic achievement. There are distinct inequalities in physical activity, with children from low socio-economic and ethnic minority groups having lower levels than their counterparts; since levels of physical activity track into adulthood, this disparity may translate into lifelong inequalities. Currently interventions aiming to increase physical activity during childhood have had limited effectiveness, potentially because they have failed to adequately target the most important determinants of physical activity.  In order to develop more effective interventions, especially for the most vulnerable groups, the quality of evidence requires improvement.  Two areas of the ecological framework that require further investigation in order to understand their influences upon children’s physical activity are social/cultural factors and the built/natural environment.

Aim: This project aims to explore the social influences (i.e. parent, family, peer, teacher and club leaders) and environmental influences (e.g. playground, neighbourhood, green spaces) upon physical activity levels in white British and Pakistani heritage children living in areas of high deprivation.

Project details: The studentship builds on previous work conducted by BiB investigating parental influences upon children’s physical activity and environmental influences on health and wellbeing.  The student will work with School Nurse in Bradford and visit primary schools to collect objective measurements of physical activity using Actigraph accelerometers from Year 3 (age 7-8 years old) children who are part of the BiB1000 cohort (a sub-sample of the full BiB cohort).  The student will also conduct audits of school and neighbourhood environments.  Activity and environmental data will be linked to social data collected by BiB researchers in a study called BiB Growing-Up.

An example of the studies that might contribute to the student’s thesis include:

1) Systematic review of social and environmental correlates/determinants of children’s physical activity levels.

2) Prospective longitudinal analysis of early family and environmental influences upon later childhood physical activity.

3) Cross-sectional study investigating the social and environmental correlates of 7-8 year olds physical activity.

4) Controlled experiment using GPS enabled accelerometers to explore interaction between social and environmental factors upon children’s physical activity.

For informal enquires and to find out more about applying please contact Dr Sally Barber: 01274 383696, or Dr Karen Birch: 0113 34 36713

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