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The University of Southampton
Health Work

Social Networks Health and Wellbeing

Our research focuses on understanding how engagement with social networks, local communities, and meaningful activities shapes people’s health and Wellbeing. Exploring the everyday life settings and experiences of people living with long-term conditions our group aims to improve self-management support by engaging with and reshaping relationships, local environments, and technologies. Our approach is multidisciplinary and is aimed at developing an understanding of processes operating on the level of individuals, their personal community, local organisational and institutional networks, and wider social structures. Our current research falls within three key areas.

Social Networks Health and Wellbeing
Social Networks Health and Wellbeing

1. Developing and applying social network approaches and methodologies
We explore the nature of online and offline networks of support and the work that is undertaken outside formal health services in community and domestic settings. We are developing and applying methods and tools for assessing network structure (network typologies), network capacity for support (network work, collective efficacy), and network change.

2. Our work informs the evaluation and implementation of workable social network interventions implemented in open settings. Our focus is on prioritising what matters to people (rather than externally defined need), enhancing network capabilities, and engagement with online and offline resources and technologies.

3. Community engagement and asset-based approaches
We draw on and develop asset-based and co-design approaches to building capacity and engagement with users of services, and partners from community and voluntary organisations. Our focus is on generating knowledge that is co-produced and on driving change that is sustainable, adapted to contextual specificities, and focused on what people and local communities value.

Projects and collaborations

  • A prospective longitudinal cohort study of adults with cancer diagnosis (with the Horizons group, University of Southampton)
    The study explores the role of social networks and collective efficacy for self-management support and quality of life of people with cancer diagnosis
  • The Wessex FRIEND Toolbox (Family Risk IdentificatioN and Decision) (ARC Wessex, NIHR)
    The study aims to support families with young children to understand health risks and to engage with existing community members, activities and resources, and develop links with new network members
  • Implementing the social network tool Genie in Western Australia (with University of Western Australia)
    Working in partnership with UWA and local community organisations study aims to tailor the Genie intervention to local needs and implement it in Perth and the surrounding areas.
  • ConNEct: Co-Adaptation of a Social Network Intervention to Support Recovery for People living with Severe Mental Illness (with University of Liverpool, NIHR RfPB)
    To co-adapt, with service users, professionals and carers, an evidence-based social network intervention (Genie) for use within mental health care services and to co-produce a strategy and plan for its future evaluation.
  • The EMBOLDEN Trial (with McMaster University)
    Partnering with older adults and community organisations the study aims to develop and test a community-based program to enhance physical and community mobility in older adults

Group Members

Staff MemberPrimary Position
Chris Allen Lecturer
Rebecca Band Senior Research Fellow
Sandy Ciccognani PPI Champion
Jaimie Ellis Research Fellow
Jack Gillham PhD student
Elizabeth James Senior Researcher
Anne Kennedy Visiting Professor
Anne E Rogers Professor of Medical Sociology & Health Systems Implementation
Euan Sadler Associate Clinical Professor of Older People and Frailty
Ivaylo Vassilev Associate Professor
Dawn-Marie Walker Associate Professor
Ms Lindsay Welch Lecturer Adult Nursing, Researcher Long Term Conditions
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