Dr Olga Perski

Dr Olga Perski

Research Associate

University College London

About me

I’m an interdisciplinary researcher and practitioner health psychologist working at the intersection of behavioural science and technology. I completed my PhD at University College London in 2018, with a thesis on the definition, measurement and promotion of engagement with digital behaviour change interventions.

I’ve been working as a Research Associate in the UCL Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group since 2018. My research is focused on the development, optimisation and evaluation of interventions for smoking cessation and alcohol reduction delivered via smartphone apps, chatbots, virtual reality and in hybrid human-digital format. I’ve become very interested in technology-enabled, real-time assessment and modelling of within-person processes and associated ‘just-in-time adaptive interventions’.

As of the global COVID-19 pandemic, I’m co-leading a living evidence review on the association of smoking status with the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection, hospitalisation, disease severity and mortality (updated every other month, with v7 published in a peer-reviewed journal) and a case-control study examining the association of smoking status with hospitalisation for COVID-19 compared with other respiratory viruses a year previous.

I’m an advocate of Open Digital Health and the sharing of evidence-based digital health tools. I currently act as moderator of the UCL Centre for Behaviour Change’s Digi-Hub Blog, Co-Chair of the UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering Careers Delivery Group, and Committee Member for the European Health Psychology Society’s Special Interest Group in Digital Health and Computer-Tailoring. I’m an unpaid scientific advisor for the Smoke Free app and Turn.

Interests

  • e- and mHealth
  • behaviour change
  • engagement
  • smoking cessation
  • alcohol reduction
  • just-in-time adaptive interventions

Education

  • Professional Qualification in Health Psychology (Stage 2), 2017-2019

    University College London

  • PhD in Health Psychology, 2015-2018

    University College London

  • MSc in Health Psychology, 2014-2015

    University College London

  • BSc in Psychology & Philosophy, 2011-2014

    University of Bristol

Research Projects

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Conceptualisation, measurement and promotion of engagement with digital behaviour change interventions

I first started working on the problem of engagement with digital behaviour change interventions as part of my MSc project (2014-2015). Here, I explored users’ real-world engagement with a novel smoking cessation app, BupaQuit.

Development, optimisation and evaluation of apps for smoking cessation and alcohol reduction

I’m regularly involved in the development, optimisation and evaluation of apps for smoking cessation and alcohol reduction, including the evaluation of digitally enabled personal carbon monoxide monitors and related smoking cessation apps, the refinement of the content and design of the Drink Less app and the evaluation of the popular Smoke Free app in a parallel-arm, randomised controlled trial.

Smoking, vaping and COVID-19

During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, I’m co-leading a living evidence review (updated 9 times to-date, with version 7 published in a peer-reviewed journal) on the association of smoking status with SARS-CoV-2 infection, hospitalisation, disease severity and mortality, which is updated every other month.

Systematic review of Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) studies of five public health-related behaviours

I’m co-leading a large systematic review of ecological momentary assessment (EMA) studies targeting five public health-related behaviours, including smoking, alcohol, physical activity, dietary behaviours and sexual health-related behaviours. Findings from this review are expected to inform design decisions in future observational EMA studies.

UCL Smoking and Alcohol Toolkit Studies

I regularly collaborate with members of the UCL Tobacco & Alcohol Research Group to examine the cross-sectional and prospective associations of psychological factors such as perceived addiction to smoking, consistent motivation to stop, and harm perceptions with smoking/drinking status, quit attempts, the adoption of particular cessation aids (e.g. digital tools, e-cigarettes) and quit success in the Smoking and Alcohol Toolkit Studies.

Selected Publications

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Association between changes in harm perceptions and e-cigarette use among current tobacco smokers in England: A time series analysis

Background: There is a decreasing trend in the proportion of individuals who perceive e-cigarettes to be less harmful than conventional …

Innovative methods for observing and changing complex health behaviors: Four propositions

Background and purpose: Precision health initiatives aim to progressively move from traditional, group-level approaches to health …

Associations between smoking status and bodily pain in a cross-sectional survey of UK respondents

Background: Research indicates that ex- and current smokers report increased levels of bodily pain compared with never smokers. This …

Trends in and factors associated with the adoption of digital aids for smoking cessation and alcohol reduction: A population survey in England

Background: Digital smoking cessation and alcohol reduction aids are widely available in England. To estimate their public health …

Talks

Can just-in-time adaptive interventions help solve the engagement crisis?

Center for Wireless & Population Health Systems, University of California, San Diego

Towards an operational definition of engagement with digital behaviour change interventions

International Society of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity Special Interest Group in e- & mHealth Webinar