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Research Theme: Place, Well-being and Healthy Environment
Supervisors: Prof. Geraint Ellis (, Dr. Deepti Adlakha ( and Dr Mark Tully, Centre for Public Health (

The aim of this project is to develop new methods to understand the impact of natural experiments on health-related behaviour change. There is a lack of evidence regarding the impact of urban regeneration projects on public health, particularly the nature and extent to which urban regeneration impacts upon health-related behaviour change. Natural experiments enable comprehensive large-scale evaluations of such interventions. The Connswater Community Greenway in Belfast is a major urban regeneration project involving the development of a 9 km linear park, including the provision of new cycle paths and walkways. In addition to the environmental improvements, this complex intervention involves a number of programmes to promote physical activity in the regenerated area. This PhD project will seek to further develop approaches to assessing the impact of urban regeneration on health related behaviour, using data from the Physical Activity and the Rejuvenation of Connswater (PARC study).

The first stage of the PhD project will be to conduct a systematic review of previous natural experiment evaluations, in order to understand the range of approaches used to evaluate their effectiveness. In the second stage, the student will develop quantitative analytic techniques for pre-post study design of natural experiments like the PARC study, using information from the systematic review as a guide. By conducting a series of analyses on PARC study data, the student will compare various analytical approaches in understanding the impact of the greenway on health-related behaviours, such as the influence of changes in macro-environment features (e.g., GIS measured walkability on physical activity, commuting modes, etc.). In the third stage, findings of quantitative analysis, combined with appropriate theories of qualitative research, will be used to inform a feasibility study using narrative analysis techniques (e.g., walk-along interviews, video elicited interviews using wearable cameras) to assess the impact of macro (e.g. walkability) and micro (e.g. street level aesthetics) on health-related behaviours. It is anticipated that the systematic review will be completed within the first year. The quantitative analytical models will be developed during the second year and the feasibility study will be conducted in the first six months of the third year.

How to Apply