Going Online for Health: Noting Changes Over Time

As part of an ongoing project PactLab researchers have used survey methodology to take a snapshot of e-health users every five years since the year 2000 in order to assess changing patterns of use and engagement with online health information and advice. A large scale questionnaire has allowed us to note changes in website use and to model the factors that predict trust in online health advice across a range of different user groups.

Trust, Risk and Identity Issues Online

This research examined how and why people choose to trust online health advice and to act upon website recommendations. There is a focus on users with real health concerns e.g. HRT/menopause, High Blood Pressure and Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR). The research utilised a variety of data collection techniques including focus groups, interviews, data logging, diaries, questionnaires and experimental work.


The value of patient choice, self care, and patient and public involvement has been increasingly noted in the health sector. These aims cannot be achieved unless people can access high quality health information. Traditionally, health information has been based on facts and figures of the illness, and very few of them contained information on patient’s experiences (PEx). It is argued that people seek more than scientific facts. They want to know more about how other people with the same condition have experienced, and be able to share their own experience with others. Knowing other people’s experience has the potential to affect decision making, reduce one sense of isolation, and improve adjustment to the disease. At the same time, there are also concerns that PEx might have a negative effect of an individual if the experience of others contains strong emotional content, or is not directly relevant. This project will examine how people use, search for, and select PEx in online health sites or online support groups, and how exposure to PEx might influence recall and health decisions. Understanding how people use PEx online might have important implications for health care professionals on whether, when, and how they should incorporate PEx into online health information sites or online support groups.

For more information go to http://www.ipexonline.org/

Increasing Acceptance of Online Health Information

This project is aimed at parents with low SES (socio-economic status).  A mixed method approach has been used to develop a tailored online health intervention. Using psychological techniques in this case Self Affirmation theory, the project aims to increase the acceptance of a health message and lead to a change in behaviour.  The overall goal is to increase fruit and vegetable consumption, amongst participants, over the course of a week.

Taking on the Teenagers – Using Adolescent Energy to Reduce Energy Use

This EPSRC funded programme incorporates research groups based in the PaCT Lab, Child Computer Interaction (ChiCI) group at the University of Central Lancashire, the Advanced Interaction Group at the University of Birmingham, the London Knowledge Lab (LKL) at IoE and Birkbeck and the Future Interactive Technology Lab at Swansea University. This research aims to investigate, develop, and evaluate mobile solutions to reduce teenage energy use. It actively involves teenagers in the project as design informants, evaluators and researchers. PaCT Lab role is to investigate teenagers’ understanding and attitudes towards energy saving:

    1. Determine appropriate metrics for evaluating changes in teenage perceptions and behaviour in relation to energy use
    1. Discover what teenagers think about energy
  • Discover the extent to which teenagers can participate as researchers.

For more information on this project go to http://mad4nrg.org

New Dynamics of Ageing: Mobility and Ageing

Ageing is generally associated with a decrease in mobility and social interaction and this decrease can be dependent upon various health and social factors. The aim of this project was to utilise an innovative method for mapping the mobility of the oldest-old members of an existing 20 year longitudinal study of ageing.

The project drew upon activity monitoring methods and combined these with data from state-of-art location-aware technologies in order to develop new metrics. These were then used to describe the relationship between mobility and physical and mental well-being.

The project worked with a local company using GPS location awareness devices in order to track the movements of a group of older adults while eliciting their privacy concerns around such forms of personal monitoring.

DALI: Designing Assisted Living

This is an FP7 European funded project. The aim of the DALi project is to produce a device that will prolong out-of-home mobility for older adults. One key to successful ageing is the ability to stay independently mobile, enabling sustained levels of physical and social activity. In DALi, we pursue autonomous mobility through the development of our “c-walker”. This aid will provide physical, cognitive and emotional support to older adults in public environments such as shopping centres and airports.

The c-walker supports navigation in crowded and unstructured spaces by acquiring sensory information, and deciding on a path that minimises the risk of accidents. This is an assistive technology, as such, recommendations are passed to the user who remains in control of the final decision.

Ambient-Assisted Living: Freedom to Roam

The TSB project, Freedom to roam project is a £3M consortium project, led by CBSL, that includes Newcastle City Council, Hull City Council, O2 Telefonica, Northern Rock Foundation, Scottish Centre for Telehealth, Quality of Life Partnership, The Essentia Group, Trackaphone Limited and Northumbria University. The project has been designed to address issues such as social and digital inclusion, information and advocacy (e.g. access and use of personal budgets), telecare and telehealth and independent living.

Our role, as the only academic partners is to facilitate user centred requirements gathering and evaluation to ensure that the project is user rather than technology led. We are utilising scenarios and storyboards to identify future acceptable roles and requirements for technology in older adults lives to support mobility, reduce social isolation and find information.

Trust and Mistrust of Online Information: What Influences the Younger Generation?

This 12 month funded research grant explores young adults’ attitudes towards information, advice and support found on the internet internet to further develop a staged model of trust. The model will help us understand what factors influence, persuade and predict belief and intention to act on the information. Specifically we seek to (a) document where  young adults  go for the ‘truth’ about their world; (b) model how young adults  determine whether to trust web information; and (c) understand how the social internet  influences opinion formation in young adults.

The methods and approaches used in this project have been successfully applied to other ESRC grants held by Little and Sillence, for example: The use of focus groups has been used extensively within an ambient intelligence and e-health context to examine both general and specific attitudes towards future technology and health websites. Relevant grants: ESRC ‘Bodies Online’. Relevant and Privacy, Trust and Identity Permissions for Ambient Intelligence.

Learner’s Trust in Online Information

This study had three aims;

• to ‘provide an overview of the ways in which trust is either assessed or asserted in relation to the use and provision of resources in the Web environment for research and learning’;
• to ‘assess what solutions might be worth further investigation and whether establishing ways to assert trust in academic information resources could assist the development of information literacy’;
• to ‘help increase understanding of how perceptions of trust influence the behaviour of information users.’

The project proposed a model for trust in online learning environments and identified external design cues, cues internal to the content of the information and the user’s cognitive state as important variables in deciding what information to trust.