In our latest Board Member blog, we meet ‘Scottish Bradfordian’ Dr Rosie McEachan, Programme Director for Born in Bradford and co-Director of the Better Start Bradford Innovation Hub. Find out why she is so passionate about research being used to make a real difference – and why Bradford bus drivers avoid her.
I’m Rosie and I would describe myself as a very proud Scottish Bradfordian! I’ve been living in Bradford since 2006 and absolutely love it here.
I left home at 17 and went to university. I went to study business at Strathclyde University, but quickly discovered a passion for psychology.
I ended up doing a degree in marketing and psychology, which I think is a really great mix. From the psychology perspective, I was really interested in what keeps people healthy and why people engage in healthy behaviours and unhealthy behaviours. The marketing element gave me lots of tips about how do you go about best trying to change and improve people’s behaviours.
I wanted to do something that would have some benefit to society
I knew that I was really keen on public health and wanted to do something that would have some benefit to society. The first job I had was at the Ayrshire Arran NHS board in the Health Improvement Department. I managed a young people’s survey for them to identify what the key health concerns and problems were.
This was a turning point in my career because individuals working within health improvement were tasked with trying to change people’s behaviours, but there was very little guidance, research and evidence for them to make the effective choices on how they were going to implement programmes and evaluate them. I saw a really clear gap.
I thought ‘wouldn’t it be really great if the research community could do something that was useful to practitioners?’. I realised that in order to try and provide that evidence and be helpful, I’d need to go back and do some further study. I made a conscious decision to move out of the public health/NHS route and go back into academia. I got a scholarship to do a Masters in London and got taught and inspired by some of the leading academics in the area. I then got a scholarship to do a PhD at the University of Leeds in 2003 and I’ve never looked back and have been in Yorkshire ever since.
The first research project I did was based in Leeds and was a physical activity intervention with bus drivers. I spent a lot of time at bus depots in Leeds, Bradford and York where I would encourage bus drivers to be healthy and jog around in their breaks and walk up flights of stairs. You can imagine the reception I got – but nevertheless I didn’t let it daunt me.
Working at Born in Bradford has been the most rewarding thing that I’ve done.
I moved over to the Bradford Institute for Health Research and I worked on various projects mainly based around patient safety. I then had the opportunity of taking over the Born in Bradford research project in 2012 and I’m now in my sixth year of running that programme. I remember being asked to consider taking over this research project and I was like ‘no, no, no’ because it was so massive, daunting and I thought ‘there’s no way I could do that’. However, it’s been the most rewarding thing that I’ve done.
When I took over Born in Bradford, we were at a very different stage to what we are now, We had just finished recruiting 12,500 families to the study. Over the past six years, I have been passionate about integrating Born in Bradford more with what’s going on in the city. It is through these relationships that I first got involved with Michaela and the Better Start Bradford team.
Researchers should be making a difference and I’ve worked very hard to do that.
I passionately feel that research is not something for dusty academics to do in order to further their own research career, researchers should be making a difference and I’ve worked very hard to do that.
I feel that I’m really lucky and that I’ve got the best job in the world that I am absolutely passionate about and love it.
I love getting up in front of a big room and talking to people and I think that’s a direct result of being the youngest of seven children. When I was growing up, it was very much a marginalising experience where nobody listened to me. I think that has absolutely massively impacted me and if can get up in front of a room full of people and have everybody listen then it’s still a novelty!
By Dr Rosie McEachan, Programme Director, Born in Bradford and Better Start Bradford Board Member