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Research Highlight

Christchurch research hub

Otago Alumnae Dr Hilda Mulligan and Dr Mandy Wilkinson are health researchers at the University of Otago School of Physiotherapy.

We spoke to them recently about their research work.

Tell us a bit about yourselves

Dr Hilda Mulligan

I have worked within the School of Physiotherapy for the past twenty-five years.

My strong clinical and research interest is in rehabilitation and disability and in working together with people with disabilities towards inclusiveness within society.

My research has explored how factors relating to physical activity, self-management, and the built environment impact people’s meaningful participation in life’s activities.

Dr Mandy Wilkinson

My background is in nursing, and I joined the School of Physiotherapy to work alongside Hilda as a researcher four years ago.

It is a privilege to be able to work together with people with long-term conditions and their families, as well as with healthcare professionals.

I like hearing their stories about living with long-term condition/s, or working with people who have long-term condition/s, and their thoughts and experiences about self-management, behaviour change, and health and well-being.

I also enjoy contributing to research that brings about positive health service system change.

Tell us about your current research

WellConnectedNZ ™ – Te Ranga i te Tira - is the name of the project we have both been working on for the past two years, together with a team from the Canterbury District Health Board and Canterbury University Geo-Health department.

The project is a Ministry of Health, Health Research Council funded project within the National Science Challenge, and explores the importance of social connection for health and wellbeing for people with long-term conditions.

We have spoken with more than 200 people to hear what they have to say about ways to foster choice, control, and support for people to be physically active and meaningfully connected with others.

This has included ways for people to link up and take advantage of already-established community programmes that offer meaningful connection with others in their local area.

Can you share some realisations around your research?

Wellconnect group picRealisations, specifically related to WellConnectedNZ ™, are that we have found an abundant and vibrant network of community activities that could enhance social connection, and by extension, health and well-being, but these are not always visible or accessible to people with long-term conditions.

We have also found that these networks often go unused by health care professionals and service providers as ‘treatment’ options.

Participants have told us of the importance to them of being socially connected with others and that this should include the opportunity to both give support to other people and receive support themselves.

What came through time and time again was the need for health professionals to really listen to what people want about how they would like to develop and maintain social connection.

What other research projects are you involved with?

Researchers at the School of Physiotherapy in Christchurch are also involved in a variety of research projects relating to:

  • Multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease
  • Physical activity after stroke
  • The impact of the built environment on physical activity and community connectedness
  • Behaviour change for enhancing health and wellbeing
  • Scope and practice of paediatric physical therapy from a global perspective.

Centre for Health, Activity, and Rehabilitation Research (CHARR)

Research and knowledge transfer are key to activities at the School of Physiotherapy

You can read more about the Centre for Health and Rehabilitation Research at the School of Physiotherapy here