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Social and Psychological Research in Long Term Conditions (SPARC)

Our research has wide-ranging impact

Here are some examples

The Dementia research programme focuses on supporting people with dementia and their families. It focuses on the translation of research into practice, and on developing and raising the standard of outcome measures to better reflect the daily experiences of people living with dementia and their carers. This work includes exploring the meaning, experience and measurement of wellbeing in dementia, and the development of creative and innovative approaches such as digital technologies.

Our Music and Wellbeing project explored how community music-making positively impacts on the lives of older people. Through the formation of a ukulele orchestra, people came together to learn, practise and perform as a group. It demonstrated that making music together has powerful and lasting positive effects on physical and mental health, particularly in terms of combating loneliness and isolation. Our current research of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s STROKESTRA PROJECT is contributing to further knowledge in this area, through research exploring the impact and experience of a post-stroke orchestral programme for stroke patients and carers. 

Our research involving groups of individuals with lived experience of multi-morbidity and dementia is increasing our understanding of care delivery and educational needs of health and social care professionals. Our analyses of large datasets and clinical care pathways for those with alcohol use disorders is directly informing policy and practice.  Our research is informing the development of digital technologies, and new forms of support and service delivery for people requiring support, carers and practitioners.


The Mouth in Scleroderma: Improving Pathways to Care

Prof Liz Walker (PI) with co-investigators Dr Liz Price (FHS, University of Hull), Dr Vishal Aggarwal and Dr Francesco Del Galdo (University of Leeds), have been awarded funding from Scleroderma and Raynaud’s UK (SRUK) (£36, 769) to undertake a study into the oral manifestations of the autoimmune condition, scleroderma. Many people living with scleroderma experience dental problems caused by things like dry mouth, thinning of the lips, and restriction in the opening of the mouth which significantly impact on people’s quality-of-life, causing pain and discomfort, eating and sleeping problems and even a higher risk of hospitalisation. Although these problems are very common, when assessing and treating people with scleroderma, rheumatologists tend to focus on the ways in which the condition affects the internal organs and, sometimes, this means that problems with the mouth and teeth can be overlooked. Also, when people seek advice from their dentist, there’s relatively little awareness of scleroderma and the effects it can have on people’s dental health. This means there is a ‘referral gap’ between rheumatologists and dentists.

The aim of this research is to develop guidelines to address this referral gap as early referral may significantly improve dental outcomes for people with scleroderma and therefore their quality-of-life. 

Competition success

Our Dementia Research Programme is supported by a Dementia Advisory Group (facilitated by Emma Wolverson, Liz Price and Rosie Dunn). We are delighted that a poster prepared by Rosie and which highlights the work of the group was a winner at our recent University of Hull Knowledge Exchange Conference poster competition. To see the poster and find out more about the work of the Advisory Group please click here


Social Care Innovation Programme – partnership working with East Riding of Yorkshire Council with the support of the European Regional Development Fund

Dr David Barrett, Dr Jane Wray and Fay Treloar are leading a team to work with the East Riding of Yorkshire Council to deliver a project which will drive innovation, enhance quality and increase productivity in the social care sector. Funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the £1.5M Social Care Innovation Programme (SCIP) which includes £910k of ERDF support, is currently recruiting staff to identify challenges and technological solutions for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the local social care sector. 

Care homes and domiciliary care providers will be able to apply for grant funding from East Riding of Yorkshire Council to support procurement and implementation of technologies. Technologies may include those that support the care infrastructure such as electronic care records and eRostering systems, or those that directly facilitate the delivery of care, for example, remote alarm systems and video communication. The team in the Faculty of Health Sciences will serve as academic partner for the project, undertaking needs analysis with care providers, identifying potential technological solutions and evaluating effectiveness.  Social care providers that are successful in their grant applications will work closely with the University as they implement the new products and evaluate their impact.

The project is due for completion in June 2023, and if you are interested in learning more about SCIP, please contact the project team

Liz Walker
Faculty of Health Sciences
Professor Liz Walker
Professor of Health and Social Work Research and SPARC Research Lead

The Challenge

Chronic diseases have reached epidemic proportions and are the leading cause of death globally.

More people are living longer with multiple conditions which, in addition to the significant socio-economic impacts, reduce quality of life and physical functioning while increasing mortality rates, hospital admissions, psychological distress, economic hardship and polypharmacy.

Our interdisciplinary research draws together work which explores the experience, and impact, of living with chronic, long-term, conditions. 

SPARC prioritises the voices of people living with long term conditions and those of their families and carers. It does this through gathering and understanding people’s stories and narratives around illness, long-term conditions (LTCs) and, crucially, their intersection.

The Approach

SPARC is an interdisciplinary research group that brings together diverse expertise and research experience.

Our approach is to develop a holistic ‘whole person’ perspective by conceptualising and understanding how long-term conditions are experienced in everyday life.

We bring an ecological perspective that focuses on the whole person and their various support networks, recognising the importance of family carers as well as health and social care practitioners, and exploring what enables people to live well and productively.

Our research responds directly to UK government priorities articulated in a range of policy frameworks including the NHS Long Term Plan (2019) and the Industrial Strategy Grand Challenge, ‘Meeting the Needs of an Ageing Society’ (2018).

We have strong links with the NHS and local authorities, and attract research funding from a range of sources including Horizon 2020, the NIHR, the ESRC and relevant charities such as Lupus UK.

Hospital bed


  • To undertake and disseminate high quality research relevant to health and social work, social care and clinical practice
  • To work in collaboration with people living with long-term conditions, as well as with charitable organisations, partner academic institutions, health and social work colleagues and industry
  • To transform the lives of people living with long-term conditions and those of their families and carers

Research themes

Alcohol and Drug Research

Clinical and public health research which changes lives and communities and includes the alcohol and physical activity research cluster.

elderly lady and nurse

Dementia Research

We undertake high quality research that empowers people with dementia and their carers to live and die well, and have an outstanding track record of wide-ranging dementia-related research.


Developing Care and Practice

Our research considers the needs and perspectives of those who deliver care and support to people living with long-term health conditions, and practice approaches that can lead to improvements in care and support.


The Lived Experience of Multi-morbidities

This research programme recognises the importance of undertaking research on multi-morbidity, or living with two or more chronic conditions, challenging the orientation of single disease models which currently dominate healthcare worldwide.

Mental health

Health and Social Well-being in Long Term Conditions

Focused on people living with long term conditions, our research looks at social, physical and emotional wellbeing, as well as the development of social networks and approaches to improve social isolation.


Research students

“She’s my memory; he’s my legs!” - Rosie Dunn

The aim of this research is to explore the lived experiences of couples living with dementia and multiple health conditions. The research will be conducted from an interpretive phenomenological perspective, utilising creative methods such as photographic diaries and photo and object-elicitation techniques within interviews with couples.  The findings from this research will help to educate health and social care practitioners the best ways to support couples living with dementia and multiple health conditions, as well as lead to the development of evidence-based, relationship-centred care interventions, in the hope that couples can continue to live well at home for as long as possible.

Multimorbidity at Midlife - Justine Krygier

My research will explore the lived experiences of individuals at midlife with multiple health issues to better understand the impact of multimorbidity at this stage of the life course. It will aim to consider elements such as identity, emotional resources and mental health implications from an Existential and Humanistic perspective.

Multimorbidity and the workplace: How work shapes multimorbidity in struggling coastal communities - Edward Hart

Adopting a phenomenological approach, this research shall endeavour to elicit the felt experience of multimorbidity by exploring the critical influence of both working conditions and the ‘work imperative’. The research seeks to ascertain specific factors pertinent to coastal communities that have been subject to persisting economic decline and how this influences the intersectionality between multimorbidity and work.

Exploring the role of physical activity in the treatment and recovery of service users with alcohol dependence - Buse Apel

The current study will explore the role of physical activity in the treatment and recovery of service users with alcohol dependence. The associations between physical activity and alcohol dependence, and the barriers and facilitators of engaging in physical activity will be identified. Then, a physical activity intervention will be developed and the feasibility and acceptability of the intervention will be tested.

Elucidating the relationships between physical activity, physical and psychological health status (including mood, stress) and alcohol misuse in adolescence (females) - Saphsa Codling

The aims of the research are to understand the relationships between alcohol misuse and mood, and how physical activity affects these. The aims will be realised through a series of secondary data analyses, followed by the development of a preventative psychosocial intervention.

Developing a lifestyle physical activity intervention for women who misuse alcohol - Lady Gwendoline Akwa

Global evidence suggests that women participate in less physical activity and thus are prone to several lifestyle related diseases. My research will employ a mixed method design to develop a lifestyle physical activity intervention and explore the role of physical activity in mitigating the impact of alcohol misuse on women’s health.

Are death cafes a useful approach to having conversations about death and dying with people who have dementia? - Catherine Wood

This research aims to explore whether conversations about death and dying, with people who have dementia, can be enhanced by using the death café approach. The research will involve a series of cafés to which people with and without dementia will be invited to participate in. Observational and narrative analysis will be employed to determine outcomes. People are naturally reluctant to talk about their own wishes for end of life and it is hoped that this style of conversation will encourage discussion and contribute to improving the recognition of individual preference for end of life care.


Our research impacts the world. Come and join us.

Be part of a vibrant research community at the University of Hull.