Digital health resources
In recognition of the powerful contribution that the SHAPE disciplines can make to health and well-being, PIHR has been working with the University’s Research in the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business to develop a small seed-corn funding stream to support collaborations between researchers in SHAPE and health and care disciplines. The aim is for these projects to stimulate further collaborations and larger scale externally funded projects. Each project is led by at least one academic from each of the University's Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business and Faculty of Health. 

Projects funded by SHAP(E)ing Health Fund 2022/3

Breaking the Taboo

Story-sharing in community environments to support bereaved/dying persons and those with anticipatory grief 
Project Leads: 
  • Dr Alex Cahill (Lecturer in Theatre and Performance, School of Society and Culture) 
  • Dr Susie Pearce  (Associate Professor in Clinical Nursing, School of Nursing and Midwifery)
Project Staff: Mrs Ruth Way (Portfolio Lead, Theatre, School of Society of Culture); Corinne Lindsey (School of Nursing and Midwifery); Sarah Reynolds (Lecturer in Occupational Therapy, School of Health Professions); Elizabeth Lawley (St Luke’s Hospice).

As noted, both in discussions with local partners and in NHS reporting nationally, one key problem with end of life and palliative care is that the subject of death is still a societal taboo, one that has only been made worse as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic. This “stepping-stone” project aims to address this issue by gathering first-hand accounts of dying, bereavement, and anticipatory grief to inspire performance material that will generate wider discussion around death as a taboo topic.

AI, the sublime and mental health

Project Leads:
Mental health problems represent the largest single cause of disability in the UK, but access to appropriate care for young people, including those with other disabilities, is limited. Many autistic children lack suitable psycho-social support yet there is little research into their needs or into how best to engage them in research processes as equal partners. The use of the sublime (aesthetic/experiential awe, wonder and fear) to assist with mental health issues can be tracked back to the 18th century. This project will investigate the impact of AI driven, contemporary sublime experiences, created through interactive artworks, on the positive mental health and wellbeing of young people, including those with autism.  

The SENaid project

Co-designing sensory therapeutic aids for children with special education needs

Project Leads:
Project Staff: Dr Nicole Thomas (Research Fellow, EPIC, School of Health Professions); Ms Sophie Westwood (Social Prescribing Research Assistant, Peninsula Medical School); Mr Iain Griffin (Senior Technician Digital Design and Fabrication, School of Art, Design and Architecture); Hannah Irwin (Strategic Projects Manager, Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business); Kerra Hancock (Executive Director, Out of The Woods CIC Ltd).

Children’s mental health needs in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are higher than in any other region in England with rurality, poverty and pressured health services all exacerbating the challenges experienced. Children with special education needs (SEN) are at higher risk of experiencing mental health difficulties. However, there is a paucity of purpose made reading materials with complementary interactive sensory products available in the marketplace. This project will co-design and fabricate a sensory product to complement therapeutic stories used by children as part of their play therapy journey. It will also explore end-user preferences relating to story-telling modalities.

Illustrating the everyday world of care homes: Places that care

Project Leads:
  • Ellie Robinson-Carter (Associate Lecturer in Illustration, School of Art, Design and Architecture) 
  • John Kilburn (Lecturer in Illustration, School of Art, Design and Architecture)
  • Gary Hodge (Research Fellow, School of Nursing and Midwifery)
Project Staff: Dr Darren Aoki (Associate Professor in World History, School of Society and Culture); Dr Susie Pearce (Associate Professor (Research), School of Nursing and Midwifery); Dr Sarah Rybczynska-Bunt (Research Fellow, Peninsula Medical School)

Over 400,000 people across the UK are living in care homes but research on the ‘culture’ in which care takes place is sparse. This project will use illustrations to disseminate the findings of the Enhanced Health in Care Homes (EHCH study), which is currently taking place in Care Homes in Torbay and South Devon. These will later be developed into (self/assisted assembly) pop-up books to provide a purposeful activity to care home residents, disseminate findings creatively, stimulate wider impact and policy engagement, and inform future methodological development.

Participatory documentation of early years play

Project Leads:
  • Dr Jamie Harper (Lecturer in Drama, School of Society and Culture)
  • Dr Jane Peters  (Lecturer in Public Health Nursing, School of Nursing & Midwifery)
Project Staff: Professor Sarah Neill (Professor in Nursing, School of Nursing and Midwifery); Dr John Matthews, Associate Professor in Theatre, School of Society and Culture

This project will form a pilot to explore the impact of participatory documentation of early years play on the creative confidence of parents and caregivers. Over 6 weekly sessions, led by a professional play artist and hosted by the early years programme at Theatre Royal Plymouth (TRP), it will assess how the invitation for participants to creatively document their experiences within the play sessions may boost their capacity to facilitate the play of their children.

Adopting socio-cultural theory using an arts-based intervention within dentistry training

Project Leads: 
  • Dr Victoria Bamsey (Associate Head of School Teaching and Learning and Internationalisation, Plymouth Institute of Education)
  • Professor Sally Hanks (Professor of Primary Care Dentistry, Peninsula Dental School)
Project Staff: Professor Mona Nasser (Professor in Clinical Epidemiology and Oral Health Research, Peninsula Dental School); Dr Marie Bryce(Senior Research Fellow, Peninsula Medical and Dental Schools); Eva Ambruzova (Postgraduate Intern, Educational Development Team, University of Plymouth)

This project brings together education and dentistry academics in order to develop understandings of and practices related to dentist and patient anxiety.  It will design, implement and evaluate a workshop approach to develop participants’ understanding of anxiety, combining the creativity of Forum Theatre with educational theory through a Vygotskian lens. It is anticipated that the model would be developed and delivered as part of a wider trauma informed approach using arts based and health humanities interventions for dentistry practice into the future.

Previous projects

Originally named the Arts-Health Collaboration Fund, the SHAP(E)ing Health Fund was first launched in early 2021 and initially supported eight projects. Since that time two further rounds have been run. 

First round projects (2021)

Hard Data: Rendering images of mind in the physical world

Project Leads:
Collaborators: Dr Alastair Smith (School of Psychology); Dr Swen Gaudl (Faculty of Science and Engineering)
This project, which involves researchers from all three of the University's faculties, aims to produce a physical interface to visualise binary brain-image data in 3D physical form. It is using 3D printing and a micro-LED matrix to create an installation capable of displaying numerous types of brain structural and functional data obtained using magnetic-resonance imaging (MRI).
It is hoped the project will lead to further work exploring the possibilities for using creative media to represent the human body and to augment physical anatomical models though data. This could have potential research and industrial applications in areas such as prosthetics, medical data visualisation and biocompatible digital fabrication. 
Related research: 
Brain and mind research.

Digital asset archive of environmental models for use in navigational, virtual reality (VR) and immersive arts and health research

Project Leads: 
Dr Hannah Bradwell (Research Fellow, Centre for Health Technology, School of Nursing and Midwifery); Dr Katie Edwards (Research Associate, Centre for Health Technology, School of Nursing and Midwifery); Professor James Daybell(Associate Dean (Research), Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business); Professor Daniel Maudlin (School of Society and Culture)
Immersive experiences (‘virtual reality’) can help improve wellbeing for people who are less physically able by providing opportunities to access physical environments, such as heritage sites, that they may not be able to fully experience otherwise. However providing meaningful immersive experiences is complicated by a lack of detailed spatial data and limited accessibility to heritage sites.
By using the long-range 3D scanner at the University’s Digital Fabrication and Immersive Media Labs, this project created a proof-of-concept archive of shareable digital models of urban and heritage environments, including Powderham Castle, Polperro Cove, Higher Uppacott Farmhouse and the Plymouth Barbicon. These models are being used for the development of immersive experiences through accessible technologies such as laptops, VR headsets and tablets, and are currently being packaged for deployment in care homes, through the ESRC funded Generating Older Active Lives Digitally (GOALD) project. 
Related research:  
Generating Older Active Lives Digitally (GOALD)

The value of digital storytelling in healthcare

Project Leads:
Project Staff:  Dr Wendy Hendrie, Dr Wendy Clyne, Peninsula Medical School
An estimated 35,000 people in the UK with multiple sclerosis are forced to spend most of their day sitting down, with significant physical, as well as mental, health implications. While previous studies by Plymouth researchers have found that the regular use of a simple standing frame at home is a cost-effective way of improving mobility and quality of life, they are rarely offered to people with MS. One key reason is a lack of awareness amongst clinicians, commissioners and policy-makers.
Using the context of this standing frame research, this project explored whether story telling could be an effective way of evaluating health interventions; describing and disseminating results; and influencing commissioners and policy-makers. This involved creating two short inspirational films, the first with people who regularly use a standing frame and the second from service providers. It is hoped that these films will become exemplars of how Arts and Health researchers can integrate digital storytelling into their work.
Related research and videos:
Standing frame video: service user's perspective
Standing frame video: service provider's perspective
Standing Up in Multiple Sclerosis (SUMS) 

‘Poetry and Covid’ Evaluation, supporting follow-on bid ‘Social Prescription of the Arts’

Project Leads: 
Collaborator: Dr Pamela Varley, SERIO
The University of Plymouth’s Arts, Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded ‘Poetry and Covid’ project proposed the writing, exchange, publication and discussion of poetry as a means of aiding healing and improving wellbeing during the Covid 19 pandemic. The project produced the website, inviting people, including those suffering from bereavement or with physical and mental health issues, to read, publish and comment on poetry related to Covid.
This follow-up project involved working with SERIO, the University’s applied research unit, to evaluate the impact of the website. This included a wellbeing survey of 400 visitors to the website and an impact survey of anthology contributors, which demonstrated the value of the original project. For example 87% of the wellbeing survey respondents reported that the website had helped them to actively express themselves and 71% that it had made them feel closer to other people, a critical need during lockdown. 
This seed-corn project was also used to develop a partnership with tech providers Controlled Frenzy and the Joy App, for delivering further work in this area. 
Related research:
Poetry and Covid Website
Social prescribing 

Musibiotics: the art of synthesising antibiotics with musical code

Project Leads: 
Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are naturally occurring antibiotics. They have evolved over millennia to adapt closely defined structures/shapes that are key to their antimicrobial action. This project has been exploring methods routinely used by composers to develop variations from musical themes, to test whether they can be effectively used to re-design AMP’s DNA code, and consequently improve its antimicrobial potency. They will then synthesize musically-modified AMPs and test them in the lab to reveal their antimicrobial activity.
The project is currently ongoing but initial work revealed differences in the variations produced by the peptides depending on the deployed music. Further testing will take place to determine which style of music produces less damage to the biological integrity of the peptides’ code.
Related research:
Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research (ICCMR)
Antibiotic resistant pathogens research group 

Place and (Co-) Presence: Heritage, Oral History, Health and Digital Technologies

Project Leads:
Co-investigators:  Dr Darren Aoki, Professor Daniel Maudlin, Dr Alan Butler, Dr Hannah Bradwelland Jeffrey Nicholls
This project aims to evaluate the health and well-being benefits of heritage for older people as mediated through digital technologies (Virtual Reality and Smart Speakers) in the form of a documentary archival record (image, film sound, text) and oral history.
It will seek to: 1) achieve a greater understanding of the central role of heritage, historical and cultural identities to the promotion of emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being; 2) explore the fundamental engagement of oral history as inter-human interaction, which can lead to intergenerational learning and a point of contact with health practitioners and patients; 3) to explore the relationship of memory and history through the blurring of past and present that VR makes possible.
One key output will be an interactive memory portfolio for use with the ROVR Wizdish and Alexa Skill digital technologies employed by the Centre for Health Technology, working with Cornish SMEs. 
Related research:
Cornerstone Heritage 

Haptic dental simulation models – Enhancing the acquisition of soft skills, sensitivity and anticipation in training clinical dentists

Project Lead:
  • Professor Michael Punt, Professor of Art and Technology, School of Art, Design and Architecture 
  • Dr Hannah Drayson, Lecturer in Digital Art & Technology/Immersive Media Design, School of Art, Design and Architecture 
  • Professor Mona Nasser, Associate Professor of Evidence Based Dentistry, Peninsula Dental School
Co-investigators: Dr Jacqui knight, Dr Susan Denham, Dr Mario Gianni, Dr Agatha Haines
Anxious patients, children and individuals with physical and intellectual impairments can make sudden unexpected movements when receiving dental treatment, often in anticipation of what they think is to come. Dentists need to learn how to manage and anticipate these reactions to prevent harm to the patient, but most dentists are only able to learn these skills through their individual experiences of patient care.
This project used video-based observation research methods from the humanities to explore such complex interactions between patient & dentist. By analysing video data, such as facial expressions, eye gaze patterns and non-verbal communication skills, a taxonomy of patient reactions to dental treatment was developed.  This analysis revealed some evidence of patient anxiety which students need to be sensitive to, and the project offers an example of how we can make more useful videos in this context (i.e. by repositioning cameras etc). 
This project will contribute to education research and the analysis will be used to develop a proof of concept /framework for a training module or CPD programme. This module will make use of a video ethnographic film tool kit and video reflexive exercises during debriefing sessions to develop an understanding of visual literacy. It is also anticipated that the project will be a pilot for a larger and more extensive project to enhance simulation education. 
Related research:
Transtechnology research

Affective VR Experience in Clinical Training

Project Leads: 
This scoping project draws on the Transtechnology Research’s successful collaboration with the digital education unit at Torbay and South Devon NHS Trust and the pioneering work of Dr Korn on the use of virtual reality (VR) simulation to enhance the primary care experience. It will examine how the way in which emotion is expressed in film and photography can be transferred to 360 video, VR and augmented reality scenarios to support the acquisition of soft skills. This will then be applied to experimental prototypes through which responses can be gathered from trainees, clinicians and producers.
Related research:
Transtechnology Research

Second round projects (2021/2)

Fresh Air World patients illustrated stories of asthma: a demonstration project

Project Leads:
  • Dr Darren Aoki, Associate Professor of World History and Oral History in the School of Society and Culture
  • Mr John Kilburn, Lecturer in Illustration in the School of Art, Design and Architecture
  • Dr Joseph Lanario, Research Fellow in Respiratory Health in Peninsula Medical School 
Project Staff: Miss Alice Inman(Lecturer in Postgraduate Education – Global Health) and Dr Rupert Jones (Honorary Associate Professor) both in Peninsula Medical School

This project builds on the international collaborative Fresh Air World project which explores novel ways of transforming global opinions and thinking about air pollution using illustration to enhance health messaging. For this project a new partnership will be established with researchers at the University of Plymouth and the Royal Devon and Exeter hospital. Four student Research Assistants will work with supervisors using individual oral-history interviews and visualisation techniques to bring patients' stories to life by trialing innovative history-health-illustration research methodology and building graphic comic stories.

Related research:
Fresh Air World 

Enhancing Equality, Diversity & Inclusivity in Acting and Dental students: an Interprofessional Approach

Project Leads:
  • Dr John Matthews, Associate Head of School for Theatre, Dance, Music, Creative Writing, English in the School of Society and Culture 
  • Dr Aengus Kelly, Clinical Lecturer in Dental Education in Peninsula Dental School
Project Staff: Mr Jim Carey, (Clinical Lecturer in Dental Education, Peninsula Dental School); Ryan Wilce (Conservatoire Placements Officer, School of Society and Culture); Dr Amanda Addy (Clinical Lecturer in Dental Education, Peninsula Dental School); Dr Helen Watson (Associate Professor of Bioscience (Education), Peninsula Medical School); Miss Morag Powell (Lecturer in Dental Therapy & Hygiene, Peninsula Dental School) and; Dr Louise Belfield (Lecturer in Biomedical Science, Peninsula Dental School) 

This project aims to build on a pilot workshop held in June 2021 on Equality, Diversity & Inclusivity (EDI) for undergraduate Dental students using Acting students from the Plymouth Conservatoire as Simulated Patients (SPs) to enact EDI clinical scenarios. It will expand the workshop across a cohort of students and include a professional SP to establish a sustainable intervention using creative arts as a means of health promotion through enhanced communication.

‘Chest Health Through the Lens of a Child with Neurodisability’

A Mosaic approach to explore child-focused perceptions of exercise-based chest health interventions

Project Leads:

Project Staff: Ms Kathrin Paal, (Research Assistant, Plymouth Institute of Education); Professor Jonathan Marsden (Chair of Rehabilitation, School of Health Professions); Dr Jan Georgeson (Associate Professor, Plymouth Institute of Education)

Respiratory illness is the primary reason to attend hospital for children with neurodisability, accruing significant healthcare costs and impacting upon quality of life. While exercise can play a vital role in preventing and managing respiratory illnesses research in this area has so far under-represented non-ambulatory children who are at higher risk of respiratory illness. This project aims to implement a Mosaic multi-method approach to explore the experiences and perceptions of exercise-based chest health interventions, through the lens of a child with neurodisability.  

Related content:
Rehabilitation research 
Plymouth Institute of Education 

An exploration of the effects of dance practice with people living with Parkinson’s

Seeing inside my moving body

Project Lead:
  • Mrs Ruth Way, Associate Professor in Theatre and Performance in the School of Society and Culture
  • Dr Sophia Hulbert, Lecturer in Physiotherapy in the School of Health Professions
Project Staff and Collaborators: Dr Feisal Subhan, (Lecturer of Biomedical Science - Human Physiology, School of Biomedical Sciences); Lisa Lort (Dance Producer for Wellbeing, Pavilion Dance South West); Aimee Smith (Dance Practitioner, Parkinson’s Dance Science); Dan Martin (Photographer and Videographer)

There is growing evidence demonstrating the holistic effect and physical, cognitive, and emotional impacts of dance for people living with Parkinson's. Despite this, research methods to date do not capture the complexity of all the art form has to offer those living and managing the condition. This project is an exploration of both the physiological effects, using biofeedback to estimate autonomic function by heart rate variability, and the lived experience, measured through filmed interviews. Using integrated mixed methods analysis and reflection through film it aims to explore the interconnected mind and body effects of dance for people living with Parkinson’s.

Exploring Collaborative Leadership for Sustainability - Supporting the Greener NHS agenda ‘through the voices of AHPs’

Project Leads:
  • Dr Smita Tripathi - Lecturer in Human Resource Studies/ Leadership at the Plymouth Business School
  • Dr Clare Pettinger - Lecturer in Public Health Dietetics in the School of Health Professions
 Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) are crucial players in the NHS’s commitment to becoming ‘Net Zero’.  This project supports the Greener AHP agenda by exploring ‘collaborative leadership for Sustainability’. It aims to explore the perceptions of strategic leaders and trainee AHPs (future leaders) on ‘collaboration for Sustainability’, asking them to critically consider what ‘being a greener leader’ and 'sustainability' mean in practice.

Related research:
Plymouth academic contributes to new NHS resource on sustainability
Plymouth Business School research 

Assessing the Effectiveness of Public Health Messaging and Graphic Communication Design in the COVID19 Pandemic

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Project Leads: 
  • Mrs Victoria Squire, Lecturer in Graphic Design (Typography) at the School of Art, Design & Architecture
  • Dr Tina Joshi, Associate Professor in Molecular Microbiology in the School of Biomedical Sciences
  • Dr Sophie Homer, Lecturer in Psychology in the School of Psychology
Project Staff and Collaborators: Dr Joanna Griffin (Research Assistant, School of Art, Design and Architecture); Isobel Thomas (graphic designer, alumni graphics)     

Since March 2020, Graphic Communication Design has been crucial in forming knowledge mobilisation through the UK’s Public Health Awareness messaging campaigns. This project will triangulate knowledge of three separate disciplines to assess the effectiveness of public health messaging. It will include a literature review of research in the following areas:

  • Graphic design: research relating to graphic communication of COVID-19 messaging
  • Microbiology: research relating to spread of virus, case numbers, deaths, and evaluation of efficacy of public safety interventions
  • Psychology: research relating to wellbeing during the pandemic

The project will also create a visual timeline of key events during the pandemic across the three perspectives, including: government public health messaging, impact of the virus (cases, deaths, interventions), and public wellbeing.

Related content:
School of Art, Design and Architecture
Applied Psychology
Microbial Diagnostics and Infection Control Research Group