Fields of Research (FoR)Public Health and Health Services, Epidemiology, Nutrition and Dietetics
My research interests and experience for more than a decade has been in chronic disease prevention and control, primarily in obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cervical cancer. I have experience working with a range of communities including in Indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse adults in urban and rural Australia, the Pacific Islands (Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Kiribati, Marshall...view more
My research interests and experience for more than a decade has been in chronic disease prevention and control, primarily in obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cervical cancer. I have experience working with a range of communities including in Indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse adults in urban and rural Australia, the Pacific Islands (Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Kiribati, Marshall Islands), Asia (Sri Lanka, Myanmar), and East Africa (Uganda).
I am establishing myself as a researcher who has expertise in the use of existing data to support community groups and organisations to develop, deliver, evaluate and advocate for solutions to urgent public health problems of importance to them. In particular, I bring my prior experiences as a nutritionist and dietitian and close collaboration with diverse communities.
I am currently a Lecturer in the School of Population Health, teaching undergraduate courses in epidemiology, chronic disease program evaluation, and physical activity and nutrition advocacy. In addition, I serve as the Academic Advisor for the Bachelor of International Public Health program and am Chair of the Early Career and Postgraduate Students Sub-Committee of CAPHIA (Council of Academic Public Health Institutions Australasia). I completed my PhD from UNSW Sydney in 2017, which investigated the obesity and type 2 diabetes epidemiology in three Pacific Island nations. My previous studies include a Master of Public Health (majoring in the chronic disease stream) and Bachelor of Science (Nutrition) (Honours) from the University of Sydney. Immediately prior to commencing employment at UNSW in 2011, I worked as a Research Dietitian at The Boden Institute.
- 2020: Lowitja Institute Project Grant ($200,000)
- PhD in epidemiology: UNSW Sydney, Australia
- Master of Education (Higher Education): UNSW Sydney, Australia
- Master of Public Health: University of Sydney, Australia
- Bachelor of Science (Nutrition) (Honours): University of Sydney, Australia
My Research Activities
Previous research projects have primarily focused on assessing the impact of population-based and/or community-driven disease prevention and control programs or investigating the epidemiology of chronic disease, often using secondary and administrative data. These previous projects include evaluation of a type 2 diabetes prevention program in NSW, community-controlled risk factor prevention activities delivered through primary care in Sri Lanka, and efficacy of cervical cancer screening programs using visual inspection through primary care in Fiji.
My current main research projects look further upstream in the causes of disease, known as the social determinants of health. I currently partner with an Aboriginal community organisation to evaluate their delivery of 'Yes, I Can!', Australia's first community-controlled literacy program for Aboriginal adults. My role in the collaboration is to use a combination of primary survey, secondary administrative and qualitative data to assess the individual and community-wide impacts of adult literacy programs on a range of health and social outcomes in Aboriginal people living in rural and remote western NSW and Central Australia.
My Research Supervision
Areas of supervision
In line with my research interests, I am available to supervise highly motivated HDR candidates with interests in investigating how complex public health problems can be addressed through collaboration with communities, particularly challenges in nutrition, chronic disease risk factors or upstream determinants such as literacy and education.
- James Obol, PhD candidate: Cervical cancer screening in two districts of Acholi sub-region in Uganda: accessibility, uptake and challenges to services
- Rebecca Warren, PhD candidate: Investigating how caring for a loved one with cancer affects dietary behaviours in the carer
I have been teaching at UNSW since 2015 with experience in teaching both undergraduate and postgraduate public health students. Since 2018, I have been the Academic Advisor and a foundation academic in the PLuS Alliance Bachelor of International Public Health program. Within the program, I have taught and currently teach in the areas of epidemiology, chronic disease prevention and control, program evaluation, public health nutrition and physical activity, and advocacy.
This unique degree is delivered fully online in partnership with Arizona State University which has allowed me to establish myself as an experienced and innovative online teacher. There are strong relationships between my research and my teaching as I bring my research and real-world experience to my students through case studies, and using my skills as an educator to communicate effectively with communities to deliver, evaluate and advocate for population health programs. I also conduct education-related research in (i) the evaluation of online and digital learning tools in student engagement and (ii) investigating the delivery and effectiveness of public health advocacy training courses in Australia.