PhD Studentship Physical Activity and Health: National Exercise Referral Framework

Institution (Location)
University of Limerick
Start Date
January 9, 2017
€12,000 stipend
Position Description

Project Background:


Internationally, physical activity’s role in the
prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is recognised by the
Council of the European Union (2013) 1, the World Health Assembly
(2004, 2008) 2,3 and the United Nations General Assembly (2011) 4.  Strategic and policy documents including
Health 2020: the European Policy for Health and Wellbeing 5, the
Vienna Declaration on Nutrition and NCDs (2013) 6, and the European
Physical Activity Strategy (2015) 7 all advocate for EU member
states to have clear, consistent physical activity policies that require
physical activity targets, with appropriate strategies and monitoring systems
to address a 25% reduction in premature mortality from NCDs and a 10% reduction
in physical inactivity (those not meeting physical activity guidelines) by 2025
8.  Ireland, as a member state
of the EU, has signed up to these targets 6.  


Exercise Referral Framework

the National Physical Activity Plan9,
Ireland proposes to fund a pilot evaluation of the National Exercise Referral
Framework10 (NERF; Action 25). 
The vision of NERF is that ‘Those living with Non-Communicable Diseases
(NCDs) or mental illness will enjoy more active and healthier lives’. 
Within NERF physical
activity has a primary and secondary role in the prevention and the management
of NCDs.  Healthcare providers are seen
as important influencers of patient behaviour and key initiators of NCD
prevention actions in referring people to NERF service providers.  Service providers, those working within the
physical activity and sport sectors, are seen as important facilitators of this
behaviour change.  Through a
multi-disciplinary team within and beyond UL (including collaborators from DCU,
NUIG, WIT and UU), the aim of this project is to d
evelop an
evidence-based NERF ‘home- programme’ to enhance individual self-management of
their disease.  This project will build
on lessons learned from PATHway (Physical Activity Towards Health; a five
million Horizon 2020 project) and will investigate the use mhealth (mobile
health) and other possibilities for providing real-time monitoring and feedback
to people living with NCDs in order to enhance the likelihood of them adopting
healthier active lifestyles.  A full-time
PhD student will also work on this project.

Specific Project Objectives:

To develop the intervention
model for NERF home programme.

To collaborate with
stakeholders to ascertain their opinions about the proposed project and best
practice for implementing the intervention based on their specialist knowledge.

To develop the research
protocols and procedures for the feasibility study of the NERF home programme.

To assess the feasibility
of the NERF home programme in an Irish setting.

To determine the
effectiveness of the NERF home programme for modifying physical activity and
health behaviours over a 12-week period, with extended follow-up.

Post intervention, to
refine intervention content, delivery preferences, and recruitment and
retention strategies.

Post intervention, to
determine the most feasible primary outcome and procedures for the definitive

Candidate’s Qualifications (who should apply)

applicants will normally have a postgraduate qualification or an Upper Second
Class Honours Degree in physical activity and health, psychology, exercise
science, physical education or a cognate area. 
Experience of working with children is welcome and evidence of project
management and scientific writing would be an advantage.  You would need to be able to demonstrate your
ability to work independently with support of a teaching or research supervisor
and the enthusiasm to contribute to a stimulating research and teaching

How to Apply

should be directed to Professor Catherine Woods, Department of Physical
Education and Sport Sciences, University of Limerick. Tel: 00353-87-9670610;
Email: [email protected].


send a CV (full curriculum vitae with referee details) with a personal
statement outlining why you would like to pursue this research opportunity and
what you think you could contribute to this study to Prof. Woods (via email to
the address above).   Closing date for
receipt of application is November 19th. Short-listed applicants
will be required to attend for interview (November 30th).