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The Project

Overview

Objectives

Deliverables

Historical Background

The need for better evidence

The Map

COTSS-H take charge

How it happened

 

Overview

It has been suggested by Heywood and Awang (2011) that evidence about the effectiveness of housing interventions for older and disabled people (including adaptations, modifications, design and assistive technology) is unsystematic and that there are large gaps in knowledge.  The evidence that does exist is not sufficiently compelling to attract substantial investment, and its weakness impedes evidence-based practice.  In order to fill the gaps, a more systematic approach to research in this area is needed.

COTSS-Housing, in conjunction with UKOTRF and Pressalit Care plc, is pleased to be able to commission an ambitious and far-reaching project.  The project will have both a national and international remit to map, organise and link together existing research and evidence, thereby enabling a cohesive approach in the planning and coordination of much-needed future research and evidence generation. 

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Objectives

The objectives of this project are to develop an infrastructure to:

  • Bring together relevant research and evidence systematically and identify gaps in knowledge, for example, the range and usefulness of outcomes measures and the impact, both personal and financial, of effective housing solutions.
  • Create an accessible and navigable information resource/database that can enable a wide range of stakeholders to utilise the information effectively to meet their needs
  • Use an analytical approach to identify the range and depth of existing research in order to map out how future research and evidence generation can be more efficiently coordinated.

It is envisaged that the project would provide a sustainable international resource and reference point (beyond the lifespan of the funding) for, for example, policy makers, practitioners, service users, educators and researchers across the world who are interested in improving housing related outcomes.

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Deliverables

  • Develop an external network to support the project objectives
  • Develop the information resources/database and evaluate its impact
  • Formulate an agreed dissemination strategy
  • Undertake a comprehensive range of dissemination and promotional activities related to the project
  • Final comprehensive report and executive summary

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Founding member Frances Heywood reflects on how the genHOME project came to be…

 

Historical background

Like many ambitious projects, the GenHOME idea was conceived at a kitchen table on the back of some scrap paper.  It was the product of a two day thinking session between Dr Terry Allen of Bradford University and Frances Heywood from the School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol. They had met at a Housing Studies Association event catalysed by Dr Alison Jarvis of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which had already supported much housing based research into home adaptations.

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The need for better evidence

Frances Heywood had read a lot of research into adaptations and seen that because there was no consistency of approach there was no strong or building body of evidence.  Terry Allen had researched the outcomes of some adaptations in Bradford, using two common medical measures (GHQ12 and HADS) and had been surprised to find that it was not common practice for housing researchers to use these tools although they made a simple way of communicating to the health world the therapeutic benefits of housing interventions.

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The Map

As part of a research bid to improve the evidence base, the two decided to map out the whole field of research around housing design and adaptation for disabled people and their families.  This was a map of the research needed- not of research done- and it resulted in a six-page diagram, which showed how vast the topic is. It was while this was being constructed that Terry Allen had the ‘eureka’ moment of realising that researchers in this field have no baseline norms from which to measure changes when housing inputs are made. Clearly it would be a huge benefit if such norms could be established.

genHOME diagram

The objectives of the housing adaptation genome project (product of the preliminary Genome Project Group, led by Darren Awang, September 2009, building on the original work of Dr Terry Allen and Frances Heywood; published with kind permission of Dr Allen).

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COTSS-H takes charge

When the research bid failed, Terry Allen moved in other directions, but gave his blessing to the use of the thinking and the map. Frances Heywood approached Darren Awang, Research Officer of the College of Occupational Therapist Specialist Section – Housing (COTTS-H). A long and fruitful relationship already existed here, and with the support of the other COTTS-H officers, resolutions were passed at two AGMs to pursue the idea of a Housing Adaptation ‘Genome’ project. The name was coined from the biological research project that mapped the human genome.  It was intended to convey the idea of a research process which would need teams of researchers from many different places, each with a particular area to study but each aware of the wider project and the need for co-ordination and co-operation. Right from the start, it was clear the project has to be international in scope and design.

The commitment of working COTSS-H members was crucial to the shape of the project. Recommended outcome measures must be usable in ordinary work. The project must improve access to evidence to help individual occupational therapists to argue a case.  It must help OTs and others undertaking research to choose approaches that would help to build a body of evidence.

COTTS-H decided to commit the resources they had reserved for research and to seek the involvement and commitment of the College of Occupational Therapists itself.  Darren Awang sought and secured funding to support a PhD student to set the project up; produced a condensed (and therefore more practical) form of the 6-page diagram and coined the term GenHOME. An article to explain and publicise the project was published in the Journal of Occupational Therapy in April 2011.

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How it happened

Working with UK OT Research Foundation (UKOTRF) and Pressalit Care plc, Darren formed the Steering Group.  In August 2011 an open invitation for applicants for a £30K research grant was announced and interviews took place in October. Finally, in January 2012 a three year contract was awarded to Maria Parks and York St John University to manage the project and conduct the associated research through a PhD.

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