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Dr Jenny Mc Sharry and Dr Elaine Toomey from the Health Behaviour Change Research Group (HBCRG) at NUI Galway hosted a successful symposium on “Maximising the value of qualitative methods in the development and evaluation of behaviour change interventions” at the 31st Conference of the European Health Psychology Society (EHPS): Innovative ideas in Health Psychology, in Padova, Italy on 2nd September 2017. Over 90 minutes, the value of qualitative methods at all stages of intervention development was highlighted by a range of speakers, and awareness of supports for qualitative intervention research, including the work of QUESTS, promoted.

Dr Karen Matvienko-Sikar (UCC) presented findings from a qualitative evidence synthesis of parental experiences and perceptions of infant complementary feeding, a project on which QUESTS is collaborating on. Karen illustrated the benefits of conducting the qualitative synthesis in: identifying intervention content, guide delivery, identifying gaps in existing knowledge, and informing further qualitative inquiry.

Dr Jenny Mc Sharry (HBCRG) then highlighted the importance of qualitative research in understanding the intervention context, and identifying and selecting target behaviour(s), through her exploration of barriers and facilitators to attendance at diabetes structured education programmes.

The importance of qualitative research and stakeholder engagement was showcased by Prof Molly Byrne (HBCRG) through her work on the D1 Now Study and developing intervention content for young adults with diabetes. She argued that engaging key stakeholders makes research more relevant, easier to conduct and more likely to be implemented.

Dr Annegret Schneider (University College London) presented the findings of a process evaluation of a randomised controlled trial to reduce antibiotic prescribing in general practice. In the evaluation, they found that key implementation steps were missed. The process evaluation helped to explain why interventions had not influenced prescribing rates and provided insight in the difficulties delivering behaviour change interventions on a national scale.

During an interactive session, facilitated by QUESTS Marketing and Communications Working Group member Marita Hennessy (HBCRG), awareness of existing supports for qualitative intervention research (including QUESTS) was promoted, and ideas for further training and development generated (see below). Members of the HBCRG and QUESTS will use the findings from this activity to plan future training events and webinars.

Prof Val Morrison (Bangor University Wales) ended the symposium with a thought-provoking summary of the issues raised.

Pictured L-R: Dr Annegret Schneider, Prof Valerie Morrsion, Dr Karen Matvienko-Sikar, Prof Molly Byrne, Dr Jenny Mc Sharry, Marita Hennessy