Dr Menna Brown is a Senior Lecturer at Swansea University Medical School. Her current research explores the role of emotional wellbeing in determining physical health outcomes in a digital health context. She is also working with colleagues on a project which explores the role and function of social and green prescribing in Wales.

What is your field of research?

My current research project is funded by the ECRN, the project seeks to interrogate and critique the concept of social prescribing (SP).

The project seeks to bring relevant stakeholders together to discuss the role of SP both in the UK generally and within Wales and Swansea specifically.

The study seeks to include both service users and service providers in a series of discussions to consider the strengths and limitations of current SP models.  

Dr Menna Brown

SP and green prescribing are my field of research interest as they relate to mental health and health related lifestyle behaviours. My PhD research explored the role of wellbeing in supporting sustained engagement to positive lifestyle behaviour change in a digital health context and SP builds on this area of interest as sustainable development becomes an ever increasingly important topic in all of our lives.

How did you become interested in the field?

I studied psychology as an undergraduate at the university of Surrey, and so behaviour and behaviour change have always been of interest to me. The focus and interest on heath and health behaviour was developed during my MSc postgraduate programme at UWE and cemented when I had the opportunity to work on a qualitative research study for my dissertation. The project used focus group methodology to explore pituitary disease patients, attitudes, beliefs, experiences and motivations in regard to their illness and whole social world. 

It was fascinating to work with participants and learn about their experiences and it motivated me to explore further. 
In addition to this within my BSc programme, an external speaker talked to our class about the wider determinants of health and it left me with a curiosity in exploring the other non medical factors which impact on health status and health related lifestyles that is still with me today. I can thank PHE for their inspiring lecture.  

How did you come to work at Swansea University?

In 2007 after completing my MSc in Health psychology at UWE I applied for the post of research assistant (RA) at Swansea university, Psychology department on a project exploring the impact of the working time directive on junior doctors. My MSc had provided me with experience facilitating a qualitative research project exploring the psychosocial impact of pituitary disease which equipped me for the post. The post ran for one and a half years, and I thoroughly enjoyed my experience learning about the research cycle from project conception to dissemination. This inspired me to apply for a second and then third RA post at Swansea University.

What do you hope to achieve with your research?

My current project exploring SP hopes to achieve several things, to raise a discussion on the concept of SP as it currently exists in the UK. Essentially as a service, it has been provided long before the formalisation of SP into the community medicine model. Secondly to identify areas of best practice from the point of view of the service providers and service users to support Spas it continues to develop and expand. For example through green (nature based prescribing) and blue (water based) prescribing. The final aim is to develop a foundation to build further work in this area and conduct a service evaluation working with a local organisation who provide SP opportunities to individuals with low level mental health concerns to improve their health and wellbeing and add to the evidence base.

What practical applications could your research have?

SP as a concept has become part of the NHS system, GPs and health care professionals are encouraged to prescribe and refer patients to local Social prescribers who both support individuals through the opportunity to and discuss their non-medical health and wellbeing issues but also through referral onwards into existing third sector organisations who provide volunteer opportunities designed to support people in need.

Evaluation and discussion of the current models in place locally will benefit organisations involved in the delivery of these services, highlight best practice and areas for improvement and provide an opportunity for participation and co-design through the inclusion f service users. Ultimately aiming to strengthen the systems in place for the benefit of all.

What is next for your research?

  • Apply for further funding to conduct a large-scale evaluation of a case study example which provides SP locally.
  • Identify effective metrics for evaluation of SP that work for all involved.
  • Add to the emergent discussion and knowledge in this area.

Find out more about Dr Brown