Student & ECR Spotlight – Rosina Cross’ PhD is a process evaluation of a community-based physical activity intervention to prevent mobility-related disability in retired older adults

Please tell us about your career pathway to date (positions and institutes).

Graduating from Queen Mary University of London with a Bachelor’s degree in Genetics in 2008 my early career pathway was in health and fitness working as a team leader for Q-motion, the Universities newly built sport and health facility. 

This ignited a passion for physical activity and health which I sought to formalise with an MSc in Nutrition Physical Activity and Public Health at the University of Bristol in 2012. This gave me the knowledge and skills to perform my next role as Field Worker for the B-Proactiv research team, investigating physical activity behaviors in primary school children with the Exercise Nutrition and Health Sciences Department University of Bristol. Whilst in post I also contributed to Plan A, a peer led physical activity intervention in year 8 girls, and to the delivery of the FAB Kids outreach project, a workshop designed to educate school children on nutrition, physical activity and health bodies. I commenced my PhD (Process evaluation of a community-based physical activity intervention to prevent mobility-related disability in older adults: The Retirement in ACTion (REACT) study) at the University of Bath in 2016 ( In this current role I have also been working as a research assistant on a Peer Volunteering Active Aging Intervention: ACE (Active, Connected, Engaged) which aims to use peer volunteering support to promote active ageing in socially disengaged, inactive older adults. 


How would you briefly describe your current research/job to someone who is not familiar with your field of study/work? What is your main research interest?

My current research centers on the process evaluation of a physical activity intervention for older adults at risk of mobility related disability. The process evaluations aim to understand the way this physical activity intervention functions, by exploring how the intervention was implemented, the mechanisms of impact and the role of context in mediating or moderating the intervention’s effectiveness. Process evaluations give us a better understanding of how change takes place, why changes may not be observed and how any changes can be replicated. In doing so, policy makers and practitioners can identify interventions or treatments that are effective in addition to the ways in which they can be improved.

My thesis began with a systematic review of process evaluations conducted in behavioural interventions aiming to increase physical activity in adults. The second study aims to examine the delivery fidelity of the REACT intervention to understand what was implemented and how it was implemented. The third study explores participant experiences of the REACT intervention to investigate whether theorised change mechanisms (such as autonomy, relatedness and competence) and other psychological and behaviour change processes explain any observed impact of the intervention on physical activity behaviours. My research interests lie in better understanding the process of behaviour change as well as the monitoring and assessment of intervention implementation in health interventions with a view to improving intervention outcomes and the translation of intervention findings to real world settings. 


What are the main barriers you encounter/experience when conducting research, or what information/skills do you lack to conduct high quality research?

The Retirement in ACTion (REACT) Study is a complex intervention embedded in to organisations and social structures that each run to their own schedules. As such organising time sensitive data collection has been difficult and required a good deal of adaptability. My experience has been that older adults can be a difficult population to recruit as they are often committed to family, social and health care engagements.


What could help you as a student/ECR to further develop/grow in your current position?

I think it has been so valuable having attended the NESI workshop and having the opportunity to discuss research interests, career experiences so far and exchanging ideas. Having as space to continue the discussion, in person or online would be extremely helpful moving forward and preparing for a career post PhD.


What do you think will be the next most important development in the nutrition and/or physical activity field? 

I believe that there is a great deal to do in terms of employing process evaluation to push forward not only physical activity research but health research more broadly. Making process evaluation an intrinsic part of the research process increases both the internal and external validity of intervention findings. As such it supports policy makers and practitioners in identifying effective interventions that suit the context in which they are delivered, leading to better translation of research knowledge and as well as effective use of economic resources.



You can get in touch with Rosina via email [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @RosinaACross