Population Health

The vision of the Long Term Conditions (LTC) research group is to create and translate evidence based knowledge to optimise the management of long term conditions. We aim to build on the individual and collaborative successes of this research group through a number of initiatives focusing on the following areas:

  • Continuing to build and enhance national and international partnerships
  • Build capacity across early and mid-career researchers
  • Increase impact through engagement in local, national and international knowledge exchange and dissemination activities. 

Focus – Our research focus is on physical and mental health conditions across the lifespan that are chronic in nature/affect people in the long term. We take a biopsychosocial approach to rehabilitation of people with these conditions.

Reach - Our research includes cross cutting themes relating to physical and mental health including (but not limited to) – depression, anxiety, mood, exercise and physical activity, health behaviour change, technology for measurement and to promote health, co-morbidities, multi-morbidity, sleep, interventions to promote movement and well-being including walking and dance.

Methodologies include – systematic review, meta-regression, randomised trials, intervention studies, correlational analysis, validation and measurement and a range of qualitative methodologies including narrative analysis, phenomenology, ethnography and grounded theory.

This research group is working towards better addressing the burden of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD’s) on individuals, health services and society. MSD is an umbrella terms for a broad range of conditions including low back pain and arthritis. Research activity within the group coalesces around MSD’s and a shared commitment to understanding the complex interplay of biological and psychosocial factors in MSD’s. Key thematic areas of research we are engaged in include: evaluating and optimizing therapy interventions, exploring psychosocial aspects of MSDs (for example sleep), injury surveillance and ultrasound imaging.

Our research group has members from across the University of Limerick campus and international collaborators spanning multiple disciplines including physiotherapy, ergonomics, economics, occupational therapy, dance, sports science, statistics, medicine and surgery. We have worked in partnership with national and international organizations of, and for, people with MSD’s. The research group has experience of a broad range of methods and qualitative and quantitative approaches to research including particular expertise in: systematic reviews and evaluating interventions.

Ongoing research includes:

  • Analysis of the therapeutic alliance between clinicians and clients with MSD’s
  • Examining exercise adherence in physiotherapy
  • Stakeholder analysis of vocational rehabilitation for people with MSD’s
  • Education interventions for injury prevention in athletes

The group has had significant reach in the dissemination of their research to healthcare, health policy and the general public. Research outputs from the group have had a direct impact on public health through reduced hospital waiting lists, surgeries and medications and overall better outcomes for patients.

We are a multidisciplinary team of researchers with a focus on engaging with stakeholders to co-design and conduct research that enables people with acquired neurological conditions to live well in their communities. Researchers from Occupational therapy, Physiotherapy and Speech and Language Therapy research conditions such as Parkinsons Disease, Paediatric Neurological Conditions, Motor Neuron Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Stroke and Traumatic Brain Injury.

We aim to conduct integrated research across sectors and professions that underpins the evidence base for related health policy and directly impacts on service provision for people with a range of neurological conditions.

Our research will inform Health Policy at National and International Level that calls for Integrated Services and Patient centered care. In the Irish context the National Neuro-Rehab strategy and the Primary Care Strategy will be our initial focus as will transitions from tertiary to primary care and community integration. In the international context the WHO Rehabilitation 2020 initiative along with international best practice for management of neurological conditions and Community based rehabilitation will guide our strategic goals. We will continue to harness the relationships with our current international collaborators, while also expanding the breadth and strength of our international relationships.

In line with the call for interdisciplinary research that has stakeholder involvement and translation to practice at its core from the outset our vision will be to; build partnerships with clinicians, patients, service providers and policy makers; enable those with all levels of research expertise to participate in neurological rehabilitation research; showcase research in the School of Allied Health at UL using a range of media.

Approximately 7-10% of children and young people (C&YP) have speech, language and communication needs (SLCN). These difficulties can have a significant impact on a child’s social, emotional, academic and vocational outcomes. A small but growing evidence-base points to the value of appropriate supports and interventions. Particular gaps relate to the impact of interventions for language and communication on primary and secondary outcomes such as participation; and how to engage effective inter-professional work to support children with SLCN.  The SLCN @UL research group is a multi-disciplinary group of researchers and practitioners who aim to achieve better outcomes for CY&P with these needs. Our group includes speech and language therapists, educators and educational psychologists with different levels of research expertise from postgraduate student to professorial level. We are interested in speech and language therapy and school-based collaboration to support children and young people with SLCN and working in collaboration with educators and parents. The researchers in the SLCN group have clinical and practice experience in their fields. Group members have conducted research on assessment, profiling, and intervention development for SLCN and worked with multiple stakeholders to develop guidance for best practice in service delivery for children with SLCN.

Our aims include:

  • Exploring service delivery models and optimal ways to develop language and communication skills to support participation in school
  • Investigating peer-mediated interventions to support social communication
  • Developing effective approaches to assessment and intervention for speech, language and communication difficulties
  • Supporting co-practice between SLTs and teachers including those in training
  • Working at a national and international level to influence policy and practice in relation to children and young people with speech, language and communication needs. 

Our work includes:

We are part of a national DLD implementation group, which is engaging policy-makers and key stakeholders in implementing the findings from our involvement in the IASLT DLD position statement and include a founder member of the Autism SIG in UL. In partnership with the NCSE (National Council for Special Education) and formerly NBSS (National Behaviour Support Service), we have implemented and evaluated speech and language therapy supports and programmes and worked to build capacity to support SLCN in schools. We are currently leading a large NCSE funded tender project developing collaborative inter-professional services in secondary and primary schools  To further effective co-practice, we are conducting research on inter-professional education involving students of education and the health professions.  We are members of the HIST_HRI research cluster at UL, within which our research on implementation of SLT service delivery models in schools is a demonstrator project.

Through an EU funded COST action (IS1406) we worked to develop  understanding of the link between theory and practice relating to intervention for those with language disorders across Europe, and we are continuing this work through the ECHO network.We are also commencing a study on the use of a communication observation tool in Irish classrooms and we have a PhD candidate exploring the development of effective peer-mediated interventions for children with autism

Health Services Research

Our research uses social science theories and methodologies to address contemporary healthcare practice, questions, debates and dilemmas.  As healthcare does not occur in a vacuum but is influenced by structural, historical and contextual factors we explore the social, cultural and scientific contexts within which the allied health professions developed and which continue to exert an influence on practice. Social science informed research interrogates the assumptions, practices and power of health professions and is key to developing questioning practitioners who can bring critical perspectives to their practice.

Thematic areas of focus within the group include: the foundational relationships between allied health professionals and their enduring legacy, history of the use of occupation as therapy from the mid-19th Century onwards, service users experiences of occupational therapy and the role of gender in occupational and vocational experiences.

Research conducted within the group is informed by a range of traditions and is exclusively qualitative. Group members have specific expertise in oral history methods, historical documentary analysis, ethnography, phenomenology and qualitative synthesis.

Ongoing projects include:

  • Continuities and discontinuities: soldiers’ and therapists’ experiences of World War 1 occupational therapy and physiotherapy.
  • An exploration of women academics’ retirement experiences.
  • Women’s perspectives of occupational engagement in a secure forensic mental health unit in Ireland.
  • Looking back, thinking forward: the history of occupational therapy in Ireland.
  • History of the Three Counties Asylum [UK}, 1860-1999.

Our research group includes members from the University of Limerick and national and international collaborators spanning disciplines including history, anthropology and psychiatry. Group outputs in 2017 include one book, one book chapter and six papers (three in press).

Our research group has 2 primary interests; innovative health education (IHE) and collaborative health research (CHR).

The focus of the IHE researchers is on inter professional education, practice education and continuing professional development. The particular issues and challenges we aim to address include:

  • Clinical Performance assessment
  • Models of student placement
  • Simulated practice learning
  • Critical thinking in clinical practice
  • Healthcare team challenge
  • Novel educators

The focus of the CHR researchers is  primarily concerned with research conducted with and about healthcare partners. Healthcare partners include service users and service providers. The particular issues and challenges we aim to address include:

  • Gathering collective patient evidence for patient-informed healthcare
  • Inclusive research approaches including patient-oriented research, participatory research and public-patient involvement
  • Issues that impact on service delivery
  • Investigating interventions and related processes from multiple perspectives
  • Treatment benefit and burden: promotions minimally disruptive and maximally beneficial healthcare
  • Human rights in healthcare
  • Examining application of theoretical models such as evidence-based practice and patient centred care
  • Knowledge synthesis and translation
  • Practice evidence