Working mechanisms of a tailored print communication and a telephone motivational interviewing intervention to change lifestyle among older adults

PhD opportunity (unpaid position; read about the conditions and procedures here)


About the supervisors:
Dr. Ilse Mesters has been involved in several cross-sectional (inter-)national studies preparing for, and executing RCTs evaluating interventions to stimulate health promoting behavior. Previous PhDs have been awarded several prizes and nomination. The PhD for instance who collected the data for the study proposed here, Hilde van Keulen, won the CaRe dissertation award. She currently works at the department of Epidemiology as associate professor at the Maastricht University. She is a member of the Clinical Epidemiology program at School CAPHRI, The Netherlands. Research activities mainly involve patients with cancer, respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, genetic predispositions and movement disorders with a focus on theory- & evidence-based lifestyle behavior change and disease self-management employing diverse communication technologies.

About the research group:
The data of this project are the result of a collaboration of the department Health Promotion (Prof. H. de vries) and the department Methodology and Statictis (prof. G. van breukelen). Current project will be hosted by the Clinical Epidemiology program (3.3 Fte) which is active in patient centered research in a broad sense. We work closely together with departments of the Maastricht University Medical Centre. In each of the clinical areas as well as in the methodological focus, multiple research projects are beginning, ending and continuing. Based on the type of research, most projects involve multidisciplinary project groups with clinical experts, experts in health promotion, and often also experts in the area of health technology assessment. All (former) PhD students are currently employed at research centers, local health authorities, hospitals, and colleges of higher education.

Work field of the proposed project:
Health Promotion/Psychology/Epidemiology

Estimated duration:
3 year

Scientific background:
Motivational interviewing (MI) is a clinical counseling method that arose through a convergence of science and practice. Several reviews are available that summarize the effect of MI for diverse behaviors, modalities and populations ( Here Mi was done via telephone communication. Tailored print communications are letters mailed to participants’ home that are uniquely individualized to each person. Tailored messages do require individualized assessments of members of the population to develop such communications. A computer algorithm connects the assessments to related feedback messages. For the study design in general see Keulen, H.M., Mesters, I. , Brug, J., Ausems, M., Campbell, M., Resnicow,K, Zwietering, P.J., Breukelen van, G., Mechelen van, W., Severens, J.L., Vries de, H. (2008). Vitalum study design: RCT evaluating the efficacy of tailored print communication and telephone motivational interviewing on multiple health behaviors. BMC Public Health, 19, 216.

Main research question, subquestions and aim(s):
Do changes in behavioral determinants mediate behavior change?
Do trajectories of change differ between intervention type?

Research design and methods:

Data are available from an RCT involving a tailored print communication (TPC) and a telephone motivational interviewing intervention (TMI) to change fruit and vegetable consumption and physical activity. Both short and long term assessments (47 and 78 weeks after baseline) are available. Research focus for instance:
Do changes in psychosocial determinants (e.g. attitude, self-efficacy, norms) mediate behavior change for the three behaviors involved? Trajectories of change in life style behavior (physical activity, fruit and vegetable consumption ) resulting from a type of intervention (TPC or TMI) predicted by demographic and social-cognitive factors (Group-Based Trajectory Modeling Approach).

Research activities:
Manuscript writing, statistical programming, SPSS programming, literature review, study design. In this PhD projects, the data are readily available and you can start analyzing from the first day in the office.

Expected results:
A full PhD thesis with 4 original scientific peer-reviewd articles (at least one published), a general introduction, a discussion and a valorization chapter. Note: CAPHRI PhD regulation apply

Time schedule and publication plan:
Year 1: Medication publication per lifestyle
Year 2,3: Trajectory publications

Competences the applicant needs to have or acquire for the project:
1. A strong foundation in epidemiology.
2. English writing, reading and speaking skills (CFER C1+ level or equivalent).
3. A background in Health Promotion, Psychology, Epidemiology, or Statistics

1. Health Promotion or Psychology by training
2. Computer programming skills, preferably SPSS

Internal contact
Ilse Mesters,