Professor Emma Rich and colleagues from the Department for Health have won this year’s ‘Research Impact Award’ at the Bristol and Bath Health and Social Care Awards 2019 for their project ‘Digital Health Generation’.

The project, funded by the Wellcome Trust, has focused on the impact of healthy lifestyle technologies, including apps and social media, for young people. Working with over 1,000 young people and families across the local region to unpick their experiences of rapidly changing technologies, which includes wearables such as Fitbits, the work represents a world-first for research on this topic. Alongside data collection, the project team undertook various engagement activities to bring together different voices and exchange ideas.

The project involved a series of impact and public engagement activities that have since informed recommendations and guidelines to support stakeholders interested in digital health – from parents and teachers, to policymakers and representatives from the digital health industry. In 2018, the team hosted the first national policy event on young people and digital health in the House of Commons. In March 2019, they also hosted the first national conference on young people and digital health in Bath, attended by over 150 people from the health and mental health sector, digital industries as well as young people from local schools.

Most significantly, the team also contributed to The Topol Review for NHS Digital. They are now producing a series of videos to support stakeholders and young people navigate digital health resources.

Professor Emma Rich explained: “Young people are using a vast range of technologies to monitor and learn more about their health, yet have little understanding of the potential risks. This project has been about putting their voices at the centre of discussions about what and how they are learning through technologies, how these technologies should develop and what safeguards need to be put in place.

"We are absolutely thrilled to have won this award, which is a testament to the efforts of the whole team involved and the valuable insights from those who kindly volunteered to take part in our research and events. Our thanks to the research participants, Wellcome Trust and the sponsors of the events."

Led by Professor Rich, the team involved included Dr Sarah Lewis (Department for Health, Bath), Dr Lukasz Piwek (School of Management, Bath), Professor Andy Miah (University of Salford) and Professor Deborah Lupton (University of Canberra).

The project has been supported by colleagues across the University, notably Ben Hutchinson from the Department of Development & Alumni who was instrumental in helping the team secure initial funding (and was at the award ceremony), and members of Research and Innovation Services, who have worked with the team to create and capture impact from the project.

Dr Fiona Gillison, Head of the Department for Health, said: “This award is fantastic recognition for the pioneering work led by health researchers here at Bath to better understand and evaluate an increasingly important issue facing young people growing up in the 21st century. On behalf of all colleagues in the Department, congratulations on winning this year’s Research Impact Award.”

This is the second year running researchers at Bath have won the Research Impact Award. In 2018, clinical psychologist from the Department of Psychology, Dr Emma Griffiths, won the award for her work developing an intervention for people experiencing co-occurring severe mental health and substance use problems during acute / psychiatric intensive care inpatient admissions.

Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Jonathan Knight added: “Through this work, Professor Rich and team have tackled an important and emerging healthcare challenge for professionals and policy-makers and found opportunities to shape changes, drawing on fresh insights from the research. My congratulations to the whole team.

"For the University to have won the Research Impact Award at the Bristol and Bath Health and Social Care Awards for the second year running speaks volumes about the calibre of research being conducted at the University on the topic of healthcare.”