Institute of Health & Society

Staff Profile

Dr Niina Kolehmainen

Senior Clinical Lecturer and Honorary Consultant AHP (Children)



I am an allied health clinician academic with research interest in improving child and family health through participation in everyday health behaviours. My research seeks to answer two ’big questions’:

• How can we enable all children to grow to active 5-year olds?

• How to best support children with neurodisability to develop  self-care?

To answer these two questions, I lead high quality research that is of direct, national and international relevance to health, health care practice, and policy. I also support implementation of research evidence. All my research involves the use if complex intervention methods, and I have a long-standing interest in advancing these.

With training in public 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.

To date, I have been awarded around £2.7 million of research funding by major UK funders. Of this, £1.045 million has been as the lead investigator, and £967,000 as a supervisor for PhD or early post-doctoral junior investigators. I have authored 18 peer-reviewed papers, most of which as the first author. I have a rounded clinical academic portfolio, with evidence of leadership and impact both within and outwith academia. 


  • 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

Posts Held

  • Senior Clinical Lecturer. Institute of Health and Society. Newcastle University, UK, 2016 -
  • Senior Research Fellow. Institute of Health and Society. Newcastle University, UK, 2013-16
  • MRC Population Health Scientist. Health Services Research Unit. University of Aberdeen, UK, 2010-13
  • Visiting Research Fellow, CanChild, McMaster University. ON, Canada, 2011-12
  • Clinician Research Fellow. Health Services Research Unit. University of Aberdeen, UK, 2010-11
  • CSO Research Training Fellow. Health Services Research Unit. University of Aberdeen, UK, 2006-09
  • Clinician Research Fellow. Health Services Research Unit. Aberdeen, UK, 2005-06
  • Consultant AHP (Children) (Honorary). Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Hospital Foundation Trust, 2015 -  
  • Senior Occupational Therapist (Honorary). Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Hospital Foundation Trust, 2014-15
  • Highly Specialist Occupational Therapist (Honorary). Child Health, NHS Fife, 2010-14
  • Senior Occupational Therapist (Honorary). Child Health, NHS Grampian, 2007-08
  • Senior II Occupational Therapist. Child Health, NHS Fife, 2004-05
  • Basic Grade Occupational Therapist. St John’s Hospital, NHS Lothian, 2003-04
  • Basic Grade Occupational Therapist. Royal Edinburgh Hospital, NHS Lothian, 2002-03
  • Occupational Therapist. Helsinki City Mental Health Services, 2002-01

Selected Esteem Indicators



My research

My overarching interest is on developing, evaluating and implementing interventions to improve child and family health and well-being, and to prevent disability. Within this, my research seeks to speci:

  1. Improve chilchild child health through participation in everyday behaviours, with focus on enabling everyone to participate by changing personal, social and physical determinants of these behaviours.
  2. Improve health services, especially with focus on improving effectiveness, empowerment, and efficiency.
  3. Advance 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.

Current Projects

  • National Institute for Health Research, ICA Senior Clinical Lecturer. £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 – 07/2021

  • 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

  • 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, 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 – 12/2019 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). Sponsor/Co-i)nvestogator. (PI: Hackett K.) 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

  • Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Research Capability Funding. £42,180 Developing and evaluating multidisciplinary trauma rehabilitation interventions, and related clinical academic capacity. Co-investigator. (PI: Wilson S.) 2017-2019

Selected Completed Projects

  • 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 

  • National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), Programme Development Grant. £99,149 How should the NHS deliver rehabilitation services for children after acquired brain injury? Co-investigator. (PI: Forsyth R.), 2015-2016 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!

For collaborating organisations, see also: 

  • CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability, McMaster University, Canada
  • #CountMeIn! International Network for Participation Outcomes and Interventions
  • Newcastle Health Psychology Group 2013-current, Newcastle Health Psychology Group
  • Great North Children's Research Community, active member 2015-current, Great North Children's Research


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

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

  • Complex intervention research methods
  • Interventions to promote participation in everyday health behaviours
  • Health and health services research with children and families, including family centred services
  • Behavioural medicine, including behaviour change and implementation science


I have teaching experience in health service research and public health, health psychology, and research methods for allied health. I have designed new 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:

  • Lelanie Brewer, Self-care development in under5s with disability. Newcastle University, UK
  • Jennifer McAnuff, Leisure participation in young people with disability. Newcastle University, UK
  • Benita Powrie, Leisure participation in young people with disability. Queensland University, AUS (part-time)
  • Michael Sykes, Implementation of acute dementia care. Newcastle University, UK
  • Fiona Beyer, Complex behaviour change interventions. Newcastle University, UK (part-time)

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

Masters research: 4 supervised to completion, in MClinRes, Newcastle University (2015), 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 professionals

I am passionate about increasing research capacity within health professions as evidence consistently suggests that providers involved in research deliver better care and achieve better outcomes.

As an NIHR Academic Training Advocate I provide support for allied health, nursing and midwifery clinical academics regionally. I am one of the founding members of the Newcastle Allied Health Development and Modelling of Complex Interventions group to advance research methods, and I supervise and mentor health professionals across levels. 

Mentoring clinical academics: 10 on-going, 9 completed, across AfC bands 6-8, and pre- and post-PhD, with outputs including successful NIHR fellowship applications, other funding applications, peer-reviewed papers, and conference presentations.

Internship placements: 3 on-going, 9 supervised to completion. Including NHS, HEI and HEE/NIHR internships by nurses and allied health professionals, and clinical placements by students.

Training: eleven workshops in 2012-16, including two in Canada, one in Finland, and one international.


I  occasionally supervise undergraduate research projects (5 students to completion), deliver undergraduate guest lectures, and mark undergraduate assignments/projects.