Beth Nichol (virtually), Angela Rodrigues (for in-person questions)
Beth Nichol is a PhD student at Northumbria University, exploring the optimisation of Making Every Contact Count (MECC)- an opportunistic approach to health behaviour change- within voluntary and community settings. Beth’s PhD project explores the conceptualisation of MECC, available evidence to support the application of MECC within voluntary and community settings, barriers and facilitators to implementation, and whether current MECC training addresses those unique barriers. Her PhD is multidisciplinary, supervised by academics from Public Health (Prof Katie Haighton), Health Psychology (Associate Prof Angela Rodrigues), and Innovation and Strategy (Prof Rob Wilson) disciplines. Beth is also involved in ongoing MECC projects, such as exploring the implementation of MECC within the North East and North Cumbria.
The Making Every Contact Count (MECC) initiative encourages brief, opportunistic advice around health and wellbeing. Minimal research exists on MECC within the Third and Social Economy (TSE) sector (groups or organisations operating independently to family and government with social justice as the primary aim), despite increasing funding and training roll-out in this area. The current study aimed to assess the barriers and facilitators of implementation of MECC within the TSE and consider how training and delivery of MECC could be amended to optimise implementation within this setting.
Purposive sampling was applied to capture a wide variety of TSE settings including charities, religious settings, and youth clubs. To explore whether MECC conversations are already occur without formal MECC training, service provider participants did not need to have received MECC training. 20 qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with service users (n = 5) and providers (n = 15). Reflexive thematic analysis was applied using Nvivo.
Health and wellbeing conversations occur naturally within these settings, without the need for specific training. However, unlike traditional MECC conversations, these conversations emphasise passivity, namely waiting for the service user to initiate and listening without provision of advice. Trusting relationships facilitate conversations between service users and providers within TSE settings, but also act as a barrier to initiating MECC conversations due to fear of damaging these relationships. Service providers draw upon a breadth of previous experience to apply advanced interpersonal skills. However, having the resources to signpost to further services, ideally internally, is essential.
MECC training should be adapted for TSE settings, with an acknowledgement that conversations around health and wellbeing already occur. Service providers within the TSE particularly would benefit from training on how to initiate conversations around health and wellbeing and play an active role in assisting the person to realise health behaviour change.