The Observatory Team
We are a multidisciplinary research group, drawing on expertise from medicine, public health, social sciences, and health informatics.
Professor Deborah Cairns
Deborah is Director of the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory and Professor of Health and Neurodevelopmental Conditions, in the School of Health and Wellbeing, at the University of Glasgow. Deborah is passionate about her research which aims to improve the health of people with learning disabilities and their families. She has worked on many different projects about people with learning disabilities including: cancer incidence, cancer screening, multi-morbidity (having two or more health conditions), oral health and COVID-19, to name a few. She has also worked on projects about the physical and mental health of family members who support someone with a learning disability. Deborah is committed to conducting research that has impact and works closely with self-advocates with learning disabilities, family carers and third sector organisations who are pivotal in all of her work and who have a shared vision of ensuring the human rights of all people with learning disabilities are recognised, supported and upheld.
Read more about Deborah here.
Sandra is the Administrator for the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory. She previously worked for the Public Health Observatory at Health Scotland supporting various research projects.
Sandra enjoys a varied role at the Observatory including managing the Observatory website, event management and is passionate about making our research more inclusive through accessible formats such as easy read.
Sandra works part time and is the first point of contact for the team and is always happy to assist you.
Fiona is the Impact and Communications Officer with the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory and manages strategic communications and public engagement work, supporting the team with knowledge exchange and impact generation. Prior to joining the SLDO team in April 2020, Fiona worked at the University of Edinburgh supporting research projects with a specific focus on socio-economic inequalities in Scotland.
Fiona has extensive experience across the field of communications, stakeholder engagement and impact generation and is interested in innovative approaches to knowledge exchange and accessible research dissemination. Before working in research communications, Fiona worked in the voluntary sector.
Dr Kirsty Dunn
Kirsty is a Research Associate and has been working with the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory since 2015. She is interested in the health and wellbeing of individuals with learning disabilities and their families. Previously, Kirsty has worked on projects examining patterns of hospital admissions, prevalence of physical and mental health conditions, and the impact of caring for a son/daughter with learning disabilities on fathers.
Her current research projects are exploring:
The impact of bullying on young people's mental health
Common mental health conditions experienced by children and young people
Patterns of long-term health conditions and prescribing in adults
Read more about Kirsty here
Dr Amanda Gillooly
Amanda is a Research Associate at the University of Glasgow. She is interested in research promoting the mental health and wellbeing of people with intellectual disabilities and their families. Since joining the School of Health and Wellbeing in 2019, Amanda has worked on clinical trials focused on adapting and evaluating psychological therapies for people with intellectual disabilities. Prior to working at the University of Glasgow, she completed a PhD at the University of Strathclyde, examining the social experiences of children and young people with Williams syndrome. Amanda also previously worked as a Research Associate at the University of Edinburgh, working across studies with children with intellectual disabilities and their families.
Read more about Amanda here.
Angela is the Lead for Impact for the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory.
Before Angela started working at the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory she worked at the Scottish Consortium for Learning Disability where she was Head of Policy and Research. Angela has worked on lots of different learning disability projects, she is interested in how evidence is used in policy making.
Angela is involved in a lot of projects at the Observatory. These include:
- Helping to set up the SPIRE learning disabilities data project
- Analysing information about drug prescribing for people with learning disabilities
Angela believes that the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory can help to achieve more equality and social justice for people with learning disabilities by improving the evidence available to help policy makers and practitioners to take action to improve the health of people with learning disabilities and people with autism.
Read more about Angela here.
Dr Laura Hughes McCormack
Laura has been a Research Associate working for the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory at the University of Glasgow since 2015.
She is involved in projects looking at the health of people with learning disabilities in a number of large data-sets, including primary health care records, Scotland's 2011 Census and health records of people born with Down Syndrome in Scotland over a 25 year period.
Laura studied Psychology and has extensive experience of working with people with learning disabilities in her previous roles, for example, as a Befriender, a Learning Assistant and an Assistant Psychologist.
Read more about Laura here
Professor Andrew Jahoda
Andrew Jahoda is the Co-Lead of Solutions Focused Research and Professor of Learning Disabilities in the School of Health and Wellbeing at the University of Glasgow. He also has an honorary position as a consultant clinical psychologist with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. Andrew has worked at Glasgow University since 1998. His research interests concern the mental health and wellbeing of people with intellectual disabilities. This includes work about the impact of stigma and ways of promoting inclusion. Another strand of research is about adapting psychological therapies like CBT and behavioural activation for people with learning disabilities, to make them more accessible and sensitive to people’s lived experience.
Read more about Andrew here.
Dr Anne MacDonald
Anne is the Lead for Learning, Teaching and Scholarship for the Observatory. She is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Health and Wellbeing at the University of Glasgow. In this role she leads on developing and delivering postgraduate qualifications in Positive Behaviour Support for the health and social care workforce, with a focus on people with learning disabilities and behaviours that challenge. Prior to this, Anne worked for nearly 20 years with a third sector social care provider where she managed the organisation’s Positive Behaviour Support team.
Anne also works part-time as a Professional Advisor for Complex Needs in the learning disability policy team at the Scottish Government. As part of this role, she wrote the Scottish Government’s Coming Home report which focused on out-of-area placements and delayed discharge from hospital for people with learning disabilities and complex needs.
Anne is Senior Editor for the International Journal of Positive Behavioural Support. She also chairs the steering group for the Positive Behaviour Support Community of Practice for Scotland.
Read more about Anne here.
Dr Arlene McGarty
Arlene is a Research Fellow at the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory. Arlene is interested in lifestyle behaviours (for example, physical activity and sedentary behaviour) and how these impact the health of people with learning disabilities. She is also interested in finding ways to change these behaviours to help people with learning disabilities lead healthier and happier lives. Some of the projects that Arlene works on include:
School-based “active play” for children with learning disabilities.
Understanding walking opportunities in adults with learning disabilities.
Increasing motor development skills in children with learning disabilities.
Measuring energy expenditure in adults with learning disabilities.
Read more about Arlene here
Roseann is a Researcher with the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory and has worked at the University of Glasgow since 2015. Her previous work includes research on children’s mental health services, children’s rights in education, violence against women, restorative justice, and the lived experiences of disabled people.
Recent projects include:
• The production of an anti-bullying resource to promote understanding and acceptance of people with learning disabilities
• Coronavirus and people with learning disabilities study
• Drumming Up Change – a project which brings young people into contact with people with learning disabilities through community activities in Drumchapel
Read more about Roseann here.
Professor Craig Melville
Craig is the Co-Lead of the Determinants of Health and Inequalities Research and Professor of Intellectual Disabilities in the School of Health and Wellbeing at the University of Glasgow. His work focuses on using evidence from research to inform the development of interventions and policy to improve the health of people with learning disabilities. Craig has worked on clinical trials of complex interventions, such as psychological therapies, weight management and health checks in primary care. Evidence from epidemiological research has been central to the development of these clinical trials and his work with SLDO centres on how to use Scotland’s national datasets to understand and tackle the health inequalities experienced by people with learning disabilities.
Read more about Craig here
Dewy is a Research Assistant with the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory. She has previously completed internships within the EU-AIMS consortium, a Europe-wide collaboration which aims to gain a better understanding of autism - neurologically, genetically, and behaviourally - and experiences of people with Autism and their families in order to decrease difficulties that are associated with Autism. After finishing her degrees in Psychology and Brain Sciences, she worked in the field of Public Health, where she focused particularly on health inequalities in vulnerable groups within the community.
In her current position with the Observatory, she is able to combine her experience in Public Health and Autism research. She will be focusing on large datasets, such as census and health record data, in order to gain a better understanding of health inequalities experienced by people with Autism in Scotland.
Read more about Dewy here.
Dr Filip Sosenko
Filip is the Co-Lead for the Determinants of Health and Inequalities research theme. Filip joined the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory in 2021 as a Research Associate. His previous research focused on severe poverty and associated phenomena, such as the use of food banks, homelessness, and ‘complex needs’. A sociologist by background, Filip has a keen interest in health inequalities. He has advanced statistical skills and expertise in research methodology. Filip is currently conducting research into covid-19 outcomes among people with learning disabilities.
Read more about Filip here
Dr Maria Truesdale
Maria is Co-Lead for Solutions Focused Research for the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory. Her goal is to improve the physical and mental health and wellbeing of people with intellectual disabilities and their carers through the evaluation, development and testing of complex interventions using gold standard methodology and inclusive research.
Maria has conducted a number of trials using complex interventions in physical and mental health for people with intellectual disabilities and has played a central part in the development of a randomised control trial of the clinical and cost-effectiveness of the DESMOND-ID structured education programme for adults with intellectual disability and type 2 diabetes. This multi-site study is the largest funded trial internationally of a health behaviour intervention for people with an intellectual disability.
Dr Truesdale supports the teaching and delivery of the PGT Positive Behaviour Support programme and contributes to the supervision of MVLS Postgraduate courses, namely MSc in Global Mental Health and MSc in Public Health. She is also the Mental Health and Wellbeing co-lead for Early Career Researchers.
Recent and current projects have been funded by NIHR, ESRC (UK Research and Innovation), Baily Thomas Charitable Fund and The Burdett Trust for Nursing.
Read more about Maria here
Sophie is a Research Associate interested in promoting a healthy lifestyle among adults with learning disabilities. Prior to starting this role, Sophie completed a PhD at the University of Glasgow that considered differences in physical activity and sedentary behaviour between men and women with learning disabilities. Her current work, and previous projects, have related to lifestyle behaviour change and understanding the influences on lifestyles of adults with learning disabilities.
Read more about Sophie here.
Professor Anna Cooper
Anna set up the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory with funding from the Scottish Government.
She wants the Observatory to make Scotland fairer and healthier for people with learning disabilities and their families, by:
- Finding out the health problems people have
- Finding out how good or bad health care is
- Telling people about health and health care problems
- Finding ways to make health and health care better
- Checking if health gets better or worse over time
- Helping the Scottish Government, and staff who provide health and social services, to get it right for people with learning disabilities
Anna is a doctor. She has done a lot of studies on the health of people with learning disabilities.
Anna’s full name is Professor Sally-Ann Cooper.
Professor Jill Pell
The Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory is based in the School of Health and Wellbeing at Glasgow University; Professor Jill Pell is Director of this Institute. She is an expert in Public Health.
Jill also has another role as Honorary Consultant in Public Health in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
Jill’s main research interests are in:
- Long term conditions like diabetes
- Maternal and child health
A lot of her research draws on different administrative data and uses data linkage methods to help answer important public health questions. For example, Jill is leading research which will help to understand the different things associated with additional educational support needs.
Read more about Jill here.
Lauren is in the final stages of her PhD which focuses on asset-based approaches, social inclusion, belonging, and how the Covid-19 pandemic was experienced by people with learning disabilities. She also works as a researcher with the Cancer Behaviour Research Group. She is currently working on a project that aims to improve access to cancer screening for people with learning disabilities. Find out more about Lauren's research.
Christine is in the first year of her PhD work looking at the treatment of pain and painful conditions experienced by adults with learning disabilities focusing on any health inequality that may emerge from this project. She is a clinical pharmacist and previously worked with NHS learning disability psychiatry services providing support with medication for people with learning disabilities and complex health needs. Christine is an experienced carer of a family member with learning disabilities and complex health needs.
Jingyuan is a doctoral student in mental health. Her research interests are in disabled children, physical activity, and mental health. Her current projects examine the impacts of physical activity on mental health in children with physical disabilities and intellectual disabilities.
Prior to her doctoral studies, Jingyuan received her Bachelor of Arts (Hons) degree in Psychology from the University of Prince Edward Island in Canada, where she also worked as a part-time research assistant on psycholinguistics in the Department of Psychology, and her Master of Science degree in Health Psychology in University College London.
Wattana is a qualified psychiatric nurse who has previously worked with parents and children with intellectual disabilities and autism at Rajanukul institute in Thailand. He has worked as a lecturer and nursing instructor in Thailand at Praboromarajchanok Institute, Boromarajonani College of Nursing Bangkok, Department of Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing. His PhD work on nursing and health sciences focuses on the factors that influence resilience in parents of children with intellectual disabilities.