The ENHANCE research group aims to support educators and families to create healthy environments where children live, learn and play! Our research focuses on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and nutrition, as these factors are fundamental to inform policies and practices that support children’s healthy lifestyles.
Distinguished Professor Anthony Okely
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Anthony Okely is a Distinguished Professor of Public Health and NHMRC Leadership Fellow (Level 2) in the School of Health and Society at the University of Wollongong, Australia. He also holds an Adjunct Professorship at Western Norway University.
His research focuses on movement behaviours (physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and sleep) in children, with a particular focus on low- and middle-income countries.
Anthony led the team that developed the Australian 24-hr Movement Guidelines for Children birth to 5 years. He led development of the WHO Global Standards for Healthy Eating, Physical Activity, Sedentary Behaviour and Sleep in Early Childhood Education and Care Settings and was part of the Guideline Development Group for the WHO Global guidelines on physical activity, sedentary and sleep behaviours in children under 5 years of age, and for similar guidelines in South Africa, Canada and the United Kingdom.
He currently leads an international study of movement behaviours in the early years called SUNRISE, which involves 57 countries, 41 of which are low- or middle-income.
He has published over 350 peer-reviewed journal articles which have been cited over 29,000 times. He has a h-index of 85. He was a Clarivate Highly-Cited Researcher in 2019, 2021 & 2022.
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Linda Patel is a PhD Candidate at the University of Wollongong in New South Wales, Australia. Prior to starting her PhD, Linda completed her Master of Public Health degree in 2016 and worked with the Health Promotion Department in Sydney Local Health District for three years. Linda has worked in childhood obesity prevention research and her interests in promoting nutrition and physical activity among children has led her to a PhD in the promotion of physical activity and nutrition practices among children in Out of School Hours Care settings. Linda’s PhD research aims to improve healthy eating and physical activity practices in the Out of School Hours Care sector across NSW. Linda conducted formative research including a state-wide survey and numerous focus groups with stakeholders to determine the level of access and usefulness of physical activity and nutrition resources and support materials in the sector, and to determine the facilitators and barriers of promoting healthy eating and physical activity among educators. Linda’s PhD involved the development of a mobile health intervention (the Eat Smart Play Smart App) to support educators in Out of School Hours Care services in the promotion of nutrition and physical activity practices among children. An evaluation of the intervention’s feasibility and potential efficacy for future implementation is underway.
The title of Linda’s PhD project is ‘Healthy eating, physical activity and sedentary behaviour in Out of School Hours Care Services’. Her PhD supervisors are Professor Anthony Okely, Dr Megan Hammersley and Dr Susan Furber (Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District). Linda started her PhD in 2019 and her anticipated completion date is in June 2024. Upon completion of her PhD research, Linda hopes to continue working in health promotion and be involved in coordinating programs in childhood obesity prevention.
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Andrew Woods completed his Bachelor of Social Science (Public Health) at the University of Wollongong in 2017. Following his undergraduate degree, he worked as a Health Promotion Officer on the NSW Healthy Children’s Initiative in both the Southern NSW and South Western Sydney Local Health Districts (LHDs). In 2019 Andrew returned to UOW and enrolled in his Master of Philosophy, which was later upgraded to a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). His ENHANCE thesis title is ‘Investigating the healthy eating, physical activity and sedentary behaviour environments of Out of School Hours Care: an observational audit and pilot intervention’. His PhD supervision team consists of Distinguished Professor Tony Okely; Associate Professor Yasmine Probst; Ms Karen Wardle (South Western Sydney LHD); and Dr Jenny Norman (Illawarra-Shoalhaven LHD).
Andrew completed a pilot observational audit of ten before school care services, followed by a full audit of 25 services. He has also published a systematic literature review on the correlates of physical activity and sedentary behaviour in children attending before and after school care. Following recent focus group consultation with key stakeholders, Andrew is co-designing a staff professional development intervention with the aim of improving healthy eating and physical activity outcomes in Out of School Hours Care services. This intervention will be tested for feasibility, acceptability, and potential efficacy during the first half of 2023.
Andrew anticipates completion of his PhD at the end of 2023. Following this he hopes to either continue a career in academia or return to Government in a research/policy capacity.
Georgie Tran completed a Bachelor of Nutrition & Dietetics (Honours) (Dean’s Scholar) at the University of Wollongong in 2020. She is an Accredited Practising Dietitian with clinical experience in sports nutrition, eating disorders and disabilities. Georgie commenced her PhD in 2021 and is anticipated to finish in 2024. Georgie’s PhD project is called “Developing and testing an online support tool for service providers and educators in family day care to promote healthier nutrition and physical activity practices”. Her primary supervisor is Associate Professor Bridget Kelly, and her secondary supervisor is Distinguished Professor Anthony Okely. Georgie hopes to develop an online tool that proves to be useful to the family day care sector, as well as produce multiple publications from her research that can be used by UOW and NSW Health to guide the development of future practices and policies in nutrition, physical activity, and screen time. After completing her PhD, Georgie hopes to work in the public health space and continue to contribute to health promotion.
Sharon Duncan has a background in nursing/midwifery in the Western Sydney Area Health Service, now called the Western Sydney Local Health District. She completed a Master’s of Public Health, Health Promotion and Human Nutrition and has worked as a casual academic within the Health Promotion unit of the School of Nursing and Health at Avondale University. Volunteer community work has included running the Complete Health Improvement Program, the Depression and Anxiety Recovery Program and cooking demonstrations.
As a new PhD student under the supervision of Associate Professor Bridget Kelly Gillott (UOW), Dr Megan Hammersley (UOW) and Dr Jennifer Norman (Illawarra Shoalhaven LHD), Sharon is involved with the ENHANCE “First Bite – Get it Right” intervention which aims to improve healthy eating behaviours in young children before they commence primary school via the early childhood education and care services they attend. Engagement of children, parents and carers in this environment through childhood experiential learning may improve nutritional literacy and reinforce healthy food choices in the home. Following completion of her PhD, Sharon hopes to continue research with a view to promoting maternal healthy diet and lifestyle during pregnancy.
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Meet William, a new member of the team who has enrolled in his PhD program in March 2023 with an expected completion date of 2026. Prior to joining the team, William completed his undergraduate studies in psychology and recently finished his honours thesis, which involved designing and conducting a qualitative study focused on feelings of social responsibility and working while sick in a non-profit organisation. Alongside his studies, William worked as a private tutor for undergraduate psychology and philosophy students and holds a cert. IV in youth work.
William's research interests lie in digital health, gambling advertising, and ethics, and upon completing his PhD, he plans to design and implement studies in these areas. Currently, William is working on his PhD project titled ‘Healthy Bytes’: Supporting Healthy Digital Media Use in Young Children. This project is being conducted in partnership with South Western Sydney local health district and will focus on using a social marketing approach to reduce unhealthy screen time in preschool-aged children (3-5 years).
For his project, William is being supervised by Associated Professor Dylan Cliff, and Dr. Nadia Zainuddin, Distinguished Professor Anthony Okely, and Karen Wardle, who is the Acting Director of South Western Sydney local health district. William aims to develop a successful intervention that can be implemented in the community to promote healthy digital media use in young children
Dr Ruth Crowe – completed
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Dr Ruth Crowe completed a Bachelor of Science (Nutrition) Honours. Ruth’s ENHANCE PhD commenced in 2017 titled ‘Exploring the Healthy eating and physical activity environments within Out of school hours care (OSHC)’. Supervised by Associate Professor Yasmine Probst, Distinguished Professor Tony Okely, Dr Rebecca Stanley. Ruth worked as an academic tutor, teaching multiple public health and human research subjects for undergraduate and Master students. Ruth has worked on research projects which have explored healthy eating and physical activity behaviours, perspectives and policies of children and Educators within formal childcare settings. Ruth submitted her PhD in August 2021 and commenced an exciting role in Health Promotion in November 2021, working for NSW Healthy Children’s initiative in Northern Sydney Local Health District. This role directly relates to the work conducted in her PhD as it supports the healthy development of children birth to 5 years across the Northern Sydney Region of NSW.
Dr Erin Kerr – completed
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Dr Erin Kerr completed a Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics (Honours). Erin went on to work as a Health Promotion Officer at NSW Health before enrolling at The University of Wollongong to undertake her ENHANCE PhD in 2017. Erin’s thesis titled ‘Healthy eating, physical activity and sedentary behaviour in family day care’ was awarded in 2022. Erin has since returned to work at NSW Health as a coordinator for the Connecting the Dots for Healthy Beginnings national nutrition service.
Erin’s PhD was supervised by Distinguished Professor Anthony Okely, Associate Professor Bridget Kelly and Dr Megan Hammersley. In that time Erin authored five peer-reviewed publications, one magazine publication, two international conference presentations and three national conference presentations. Dr. Kerr current research involves developing and evaluating online interactive early childhood nutrition workshops, professional development training, and resources for parents/carers, early childhood educators and health professionals.
- Anthony Okely
- Sarah Ryan
- Katherine Van Weerdenburg (Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District)
- Christine Innes-Hughes (Centre for Population Health)
- Karen Wardle (South Western Sydney LHD)
- Luke Wolfenden (Hunter New England LHD)
- Gretchen Buck (Southern NSW LHD)
- Michelle Nolan (Western Sydney LHD)
- Anita Jovanovski (CEO of NSW Family Day Care Association)
- Pauline O'Kane (CEO of Network of Community Activities)
- Natalie Grenfell (VP of Early Childhood Australia NSW Branch)