Health Behaviour Change Research Group at NUI Galway

Lead researcher: Professor Molly Byrne, NUI Galway

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The problem

Behaviours such as smoking, exercise and diet are closely linked with our health. So, it’s important to include behavioural scientists when designing initiatives to promote good health. But traditionally they have not been involved. 

The project

Through a five-year HRB Leadership Award, Professor Molly Byrne created the Health Behaviour Change Research Group at NUI Galway, which has amassed research, expertise and training in Ireland in the areas of behaviours which are important in diabetes, heart disease and primary care (GPs, public health nurses, pharmacies etc).

The outcomes
  • The Health Behaviour Change Research Group (HBCRG) was established, and is now an international centre of excellence for behaviour change research
  • Identifying and tackling barriers to people attending support programmes for diabetes or rehabilitation following heart-related issues, and encouraging them to get the help needed to improve their health
  • The HBCRG is delivering training on behaviour change to wider communities through partners, including Sport Ireland
  • Researchers at the HBCRG are working closely with the Healthy Ireland Programme and the Health Service Executive (HSE) to implement a framework to train healthcare professionals in behaviour change and the importance of every interaction with patients
  • The award has strengthened international networks and enabled Ireland take a leadership role in initiatives such as the International Behavioural Trials Network
  • Health psychologist Professor Molly Byrne was on the Communications sub-committee that advised the National Public Health Emergency Team in the first 20 months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Professor Molly Byrne, Director of the Health Behaviour Change Research Group, NUI Galway, says:  

“In 2014 the HRB saw the opportunity and took a chance on investing in me to build health behaviour change research in Ireland. This award has allowed me to develop, train and mentor a cohort of researchers, some who are still with the HBCRG and some who have since assumed their own leadership roles.

"We have brought psychology and behaviour change more to the fore when thinking about health interventions in Ireland, from seeing if patients will attend cardiac rehab more if it is online, to training GPs on how to help patients manage behaviour change, to encouraging people to boost physical activity through sport. The gap was there, and in five years we have established health psychology and behaviour change as an important discipline for designing policies and interventions in Ireland.”

'Health Behaviour Change Research Group at NUI Galway' is part of a wider collection of success stories across four themes from this year's annual Health Research in Action. Download the full publication

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