SMP Seminar Series, Semester 2, Week 13

Image: Luis Quintero, Pexels

Presentation 1: Understanding Cognitive Biases in Remote Communications— Increasing Equity in eHealth and Beyond  

Speaker: Dr Eryn Newman is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Medicine and Psychology at the Australian National University. She is a cognitive psychologist with expertise in memory and belief formation. In her research she focuses on understanding cognitive mechanisms contributing to memory errors and various biases in decision-making. Combining approaches from social and cognitive psychology she examines the role of evidence, intuitive feelings and context in decision making. She studies these psychological processes and their consequences in a range of domains, including misinformation, science communication, health and justice contexts.    

Abstract: While remote health services may be an equalizer on many fronts—offering care to those who have struggled to obtain it—the digital divide and other forms of technological inequity mean that some people experience eHealth services with a smooth connection and clear sound, while others experience digital disruption, poor quality sound, and signal drop outs. In this SMP project, we examined the impact of digital disruption on key healthcare metrics, including the therapeutic alliance, experienced uncertainty, behavioural intentions and memory for GP consults. This presentation highlights key findings from our experimental and qualitative research which converge in calling for digital equity in telemedicine and eHealth.

Presentation 2: A novel intervention to tackle the co-occurring health challenges of higher weight, stigma, loneliness, and mental ill-health

Speakers: Tegan Cruwys is an Associate Professor and Clinical Psychologist at the Australian National University. She is an NHMRC Emerging Research Fellow with a focus on how social relationships shape mental and physical health. In particular, Cruwys is concerned both with advancing theoretical understanding of the social determinants of health, and with translational impact that improves outcomes for marginalised communities. With over 150 academic publications, Cruwys has made internationally recognised research contributions to the study of loneliness, social identity, depression, substance use, eating behaviour, physical activity, and mental health treatment.

Jo Rathbone is a Postdoctoral Fellow in SMP. Her research uses social psychological theory to understand and intervene on two key social determinants of health: social connection and stigma. Jo’s PhD investigated novel predictors of weight stigma in primary health care, and evaluated alternative non-stigmatising approaches to communicating public health messages. Since completing her PhD and joining the ANU at the end of 2021, Jo has continued to lead research projects on weight stigma, as well as new programs of research on social change and the social determinants of disordered eating.      

Abstract: People of a higher weight often experience weight bias, loneliness, and have a lack of supportive social networks. These experiences place people of a higher weight are at an increased risk of developing mental ill-health, including depression and eating disorder symptoms. However, our team has developed an evidence-based psychotherapeutic group program, called Groups 4 Health (G4H) that has been found to reduce loneliness, depression, and anxiety in three previous clinical trials. We will review the evidence base for Groups 4 Health and describe our (SMP funded) pilot of G4H for people with higher weight by our team spanning psychology, medicine and people with lived experience of higher weight. Among 49 Australian adults with an average BMI >38, we found large benefits on loneliness (d = -0.90), depression (d = -0.71), and eating disorder symptoms (d = -0.73) from T0 to T1 – all of which were maintained at T2. Similarly, internalised weight bias was significantly reduced and experiences of effective social support for health behaviours also significantly increased. The findings provide strong preliminary support for the efficacy of G4H in supporting the mental health and social and emotional wellbeing of people who are a higher weight.