The University of Southampton

Southampton professor awarded prestigious fellowship to help build a healthy nation

Published: 14 November 2019
Professor m.c. schraefel (seated centre) leads the Imbodied Interaction Summer School in Southampton.

Professor m.c. schraefel will explore models that inspire a broad and sustained uptake of digital health technologies through a prestigious Established Career Fellowship at the University of Southampton.

The five-year fellowship, awarded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), is one of just over 50 of its kind to recognise significant career achievements across the UK academic community. The project was the top ranked proposal from all nationwide entries this autumn in the ESPRC ICT interview panel.

The award also confirms Professor schraefel, a prominent researcher in Computer Science and Human Performance, as an international field leader. She will develop and test approaches for Inbodied Interaction Design that address an EPSRC Grand Challenge to transform community health and care. The £1.58m fellowship will build upon initiatives such as the wellthLab and continue her mission to #makeBetterNormal.

“The new social normal in the UK is to be unhealthy,” m.c. explains. “The latest figures show that 69% of UK adults are overweight to obese, 80% of workers report being stressed and 79% of adults are underslept.

“There's tremendous desire to create digital interventions to fix these issues; to help us become healthier. While some of these technologies are fantastic accomplishments of what counting can do, they are still really brittle. These devices are very much focussed on individuals, which can mean these practices become socially isolating and require a lot of willpower when we just don’t have the resources.

“Health is complex - apps, typically, are not. The quest of this fellowship is to explore how we design interactive technology that supports the building of health resilience.”

The new project will deliver innovation based on Inbodied Interaction, a methodology m.c. has developed that considers the optimal internal working of the body when designing support for human performance.

A research team will develop frameworks and models of the new tools for uptake by groups and businesses, while also engaging with policymakers to encourage health resilience interactive technologies to be deployed across the UK.

“The research over the past decade is clear: the healthier and fitter we are, the happier, the less stressed, the smarter we are,” m.c. says. “I come from a Sports Science context of neurology and kinesiology, where the body is the site of aspiration and enabling performance. Bear Grylls can teach us how to survive, but most of us do that every day. In this work, i want to help people thrive - become thrivalists of our daily lives.”

The Established Career Fellowship follows m.c.’s ground-breaking work in a Royal Academy of Engineering Senior Research Fellowship and Research Chair, as well as the EPSRC-funded ReFresh project and GetAMoveOn network.

Local, national and international project partners connected to the programme include the Association of Colleges, Facebook UK, FoodCloud, IBM, Imperial College London, Ogilvy Group UK, Portsmouth College, Public Health England, Royal College of Art, Southampton Voluntary Services and the University of Bath.

“It’s fantastic to receive this award that recognises the importance of this research agenda in advancing the UK’s aspirations for a healthy, connected, resilient and productive nation,” m.c. says. “I’m honoured that this proposal was ranked first and would like to thank the invaluable support from the University’s Research and Innovation Services that means we can continue to #makeBetterNormal.”

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