Institute of Health & Society

Staff Profile

Dr Niina Kolehmainen

Senior Clinical Lecturer and Honorary Consultant AHP (Children)



I am a clinical population health scientist with focus on improving child health and well-being through everyday behaviours. My primary focus is on movement and physical activity in under5s. Within this my research follows four key lines of enquiry: (i) Understanding movement and activity in everyday context, and specifying it as an exposure in relation to other life course outcomes. (ii) Mapping the trajectories and trends of movement and activity in early life across child populations. (iii) Developing and evaluating population interventions to promote early everyday movement and activity, and (iv) Developing the evidence and methods for assessing the value of movement interventions.

I also collaborate on research to advance behaviours related to self-care in children with long-term conditions, and to children's social participation and friendships. Much of this is through the CHILD Research Group that I lead.

Our group's aspiration is to push the boundaries of current knowledge and thinking around child health, and to inform practice, policy and commissioning. All of our research involves the use if complex intervention methods, and I have a long-standing interest in advancing these.

To date, I have been awarded around £2.7 million of research funding by major UK funders, most of it as the lead investigator or as a supervisor for junior investigators. I have a rounded clinical academic portfolio, with active NHS involvement, and I mentor a range of next generation clinical academic leaders.


  • PhD Health Services Research, University of Aberdeen 2009
  • PgDip Occupational Therapy, Queen Margaret University 2007
  • MSc Health Services Research, University of Aberdeen 2006
  • Toimintaterapeutti (AMK), Helsinki Polytechnic 2002

Selected Esteem Indicators



My research

My overarching interest is on developing, evaluating and implementing interventions to improve child health and well-being. Within this, my research focuses specifically on everyday behaviours and the personal, social and health-related determinants of these. I also have a long-standing interest and expertise in advancing complex intervention research methods, with reference to the MRC framework.

I focus my research on improving outcomes for people and populations that currently experience worse outcomes than their peers. I do not automatically focus on specific diagnostic groups.

With training in population health, health services research, behaviour change, implementation science, and occupational therapy, I integrate a wide range of perspectives to my research and collaborate with colleagues across disciplines.

Current Projects

  • National Institute for Health Research, ICA Senior Clinical Lecturer Fellowship. £487,670 Promoting health and functioning in children with physical limitations through participation in physical activities: the ActiveCHILD study. Kolehmainen N (PI). Funding period: 06/2016 – 10/2021

  • National Institute for Health Research, HTA Evidence Synthesis. £251,448. EMPoWER: Cost-effectiveness of earlier provision of powered wheelchair interventions for children with mobility limitations. Kolehmainen N (Co-i). Funding period 04/2018 – 10/2019 Ref: 17/70/01 Protocol

  • Great North Children’s Foundation, Improvement/Implementation Science Fund. £38,506. GIANT: Generating & Implementing research-based Allied health iNTerventions. Kolehmainen N (PI). Funding period: 09/2017 – 08/2020

  • National Institute for Health Research, Doctoral Research Training Fellowship. £364,106. Enhancing audit and feedback in acute trust dementia care. Kolehmainen N (co-supervisor), PI: Sykes M. Funding period: 01/2017 – 08/2020 Ref: DRF-2016-09-028

  • Arthritis Research UK, Foundation Fellowship (post-doctoral). £283,202. Development and feasibility of an evidence-based DIGital self-management Intervention Tool for people with primary Sjögren's syndrome (DIGITS). Kolehmainen N (Sponsor/Co-i). 2018-2021

  • National Institute for Health Research, Doctoral Research Training Fellowship. £364,106. Enhancing audit and feedback in acute trust dementia care. Co-supervisor. (PI: Sykes M.) 2017-2019

Selected Completed Projects

  • British Academy of Childhood Disability and Castang Foundation. £59,762. Promoting social participation to prevent mental health problems in children and young people with neurodisability: an interventions development study. Kolehmainen N (Co-I). PI: Brooks R. Funding period: 09/2017 – 08/2018

  • National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), CAT Doctoral Research Training Fellowship. £277,700. Improving health in children with disabilities: an intervention-development study to support participation in leisure in 8-12-year-olds with communication and mobility limitations. Primary supervisor (PI: McAnuff J.). 2015-2018

  • National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), Health Technology Assessment. £245,174 Standing frames as part of postural management for children with spasticity. What is the acceptability of a trial to determine efficacy of standing frames? Co-investigator. (PI: Kisler J.), 2015-2017 Related web site 

  • Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Research Capability Funding. £45,848 CHILD: Collaborative Health visiting, nursIng, and alLieD health research. Kolehmainen N (PI). Funding period: 10/2016 – 09/2017 Related web site
  • Medical Research Council (MRC), Population Health Scientist Fellowship. £283,837. Participation in physical leisure pursuits and play in children with motor impairments: developing a theory- and evidence-based intervention. PI: Kolehmainen N. 2010-2014 Open access protocol

  • Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office (CSO), Healthcare Improvement Grant. £70,396. Using ‘Good Goals’ to improve children’s occupational therapy services: a feasibility study of a multifaceted caseload management intervention. PI: Kolehmainen N. 2009-2010 Open access publication

  • Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office (CSO), Research Training Fellowship. £127,369. Optimising caseload management: developing an intervention in paediatric occupational therapy. PI: Kolehmainen N. 2006-2009 Full list of publications


I collaborate with people across sectors and disciplines. The list below indicates some of the people I currently work with, but the list is not exhaustive or exclusive!


I am always delighted to hear from anyone who would like to explore opportunities to do further learning with me. 

For research supervision, training, and examining, I am happy to be approached for the following expertise: 

  • Interventions to promote participation in everyday health behaviours (both population and clinical interventions)
  • Complex intervention research methods, including behaviour change and implementation science

Postgraduate teaching and supervision

I have teaching experience in health service research and public health, health psychology, and research methods. I have designed new postgraduate teaching and training (e.g. in mixed methods, complex interventions), and delivered teaching and training to a range of audiences in a variety of settings. I have experience of examining across post-graduate degrees, including as an external PhD examiner.

Current PhD fellows/students and their topics:

  • Sam Armitage, Self-care interventions and family support in childhood neurodisability. Newcastle University, UK
  • Lelanie Brewer, Self-care development in under5s with neurodisability. Newcastle University, UK
  • Fiona Beyer, Complex behaviour change interventions. Newcastle University, UK (part-time)
  • Claire Marcroft, Routine surveillance of infants after neonatal care. Newcastle University, UK
  • Ananya Namdeo, Mixed methods in systematic evidence syntheses. Newcastle University, UK
  • Michael Sykes, Audit and feedback implementation intervention. Newcastle University, UK

PhDs supervised to completion, and their topics:

  • Jennifer McAnuff, Leisure participation in young people with disability. Newcastle University, UK (2019)
  • Benita Powrie, Leisure participation in young people with disability. Queensland University, AUS (2018)

PhD/Mphil Viva examining: University of Groningen (2015), Glasgow Caledonian University (2013)

Masters research projects supervised to completion: MClinRes, Newcastle University (2015, 2019); MSc in Health Services and Public Health Research, University of Aberdeen (2013); and MSc in Professional Health and Social Care Studies, York St John’s University (2011).

Lecturing: MSc in Health Psychology, Northumbria University (in 2015); MSc in Health Service and Public Health Research, University of Aberdeen (2007-12) and Newcastle University (2016); and MSc in International Health and Management, University of Aberdeen (2009-12)

Health professional training

I have a long-standing commitment and a track record in growing clinical research capacity for a purpose of achieving better care and health outcomes. As an NIHR Academic Training Advocate I support allied health, nursing and midwifery clinical academics nationally. I am one of the founding members of the Newcastle Allied Health Development and Modelling of Complex Interventions group. I also supervise and mentor health professionals across levels, pre- and post-doctoral. I have supervise several research internships each year, including NHS and HEE/NIHR -funded, by qualified nurses and allied health professionals 

As part of our engagement work, I have also designed and delivered training to various health and care professionals, including internationally.