Population Wellbeing and Environment Research Lab

Professor Thomas Astell-Burt is the Director of PowerLab, which is part of the School of Health and Society in the Faculty of the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities.

Obesity, type 2 diabetes, dementia and loneliness are the epidemics of modern times and have been linked to urbanisation that does not prioritise people and contact with nature.

The goal of the PowerLab is to enhance understandings of how people and equity orientated changes in urban environments can enable population wellbeing and human flourishing across the life course.

We do this by working with policymakers, practitioners and the public to coproduce, collaborate and communicate evidence for positive change.

If you are interested in what we do, please let us know by email: powerlab-enquiries@uow.edu.au

Our people

Tashi Dendup
Thesis: Built environment and prevention of type 2 diabetes

Selin Akaraci
Thesis: The role of urban green space in shaping maternal and perinatal health outcomes

Jiangmei Liu
Thesis: Spatiotemporal Trends, Multilevel Correlates and Impacts of Public Policy and other factors on Trajectories and Inequalities in Road Traffic Mortality in China

Shumirai Mushangwe
Understanding the Relationships between Urban Greenspace, Ethnicity and Mental Health

Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz
Eliminating The 'Staircase' Effect: Enhancing Integrated Care of Type 2 Diabetes in Western Sydney Through Improving Patient Retention and Preventing Inequities in Patient Drop-Out of Clinical Care Pathways

Edi Putra
Understanding the association between neighbourhood green space quality and child prosocial behaviour

Eme John 
Thesis: Green space and healthy aging


Environments for healthy equitable ageing
For a long time, urban planning (or a lack thereof) has resulted in sprawling built environments that privilege sedentary behaviour, promote consumption of inexpensive and energy-dense food, lengthen commute times, instil car dependency, increase vulnerability to heat island effects, worsen air quality, breed social isolation, cut local biodiversity and reduce human contact with nature.

To support population wellbeing and healthy ageing, we need to build and regenerate our cities to empower people to be and do what they have reason to value. This means designing environments that enable people to move around, build and maintain relationships, meet their own basic needs, learn, grow, make decisions, contribute to society and enjoy life.

We have received funding from Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited with co-investment from the University of Wollongong and funds from the Australian Government (#GC15005), as well as the National Health and Medical Research Council (project grant #1101065) and the National Heart Foundation of Australia (fellowship #100948, fellowship #100161, vanguard award #101460).

Green space and child health
We know that many experiences we have in childhood stay with us, or put us on particular trajectories, which can shape our health and wellbeing over time. For better and for worse.

Parks, tree canopy and other types of ‘green space’ are increasingly considered resources that not only enable outdoor physical and social recreation, but also opportunities for relaxing, learning and feeling more in contact with nature. This all suggests great potential for urban greening strategies to help optimise health and wellbeing for all children, regardless of socioeconomic background.

This project has been funded by Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited with co-investment from the University of Wollongong and funds from the Australian Government.

Diabetes prevention and management
In Australia an estimated 1 million people have type 2 diabetes and another 2 million are considered at high risk of developing diabetes. Diabetes affects people, their families and society more generally, costing over $15 billion annually. The burden is highly inequitably distributed, with people from marginalised and socioeconomically disadvantaged communities especially affected. Many people who have diabetes are unaware of their health condition and so do not get the healthcare they need.

We have been working closely since 2012 with Western Sydney Local Health District and Primary Health Network to conduct policy-relevant research on diabetes prevention and management. As a member of the Western Sydney Diabetes Leadership Alliance, our joint research and advocacy has led to new diabetes detection initiatives in Blacktown and Mount Druitt emergency departments, raised awareness of how built and natural environments shape diabetes risk, and explored the consequences of a diabetes diagnosis for weight, lifestyles and mental health.

We have received funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council (project grant #1101065) and the National Heart Foundation of Australia (fellowship #100948, vanguard award #101460).

Obesity and chronic disease in China
Rapid urbanisation and economic development has had profound implications for China, lifting millions of people out of poverty, helping improve access to healthcare, making new jobs and educational opportunities available. However, these processes may have also had consequences that negatively influence health and wellbeing, such as increasing car dependence, altering diets, promoting sedentary lifestyles and changing the environments people live, work and learn in.

Our collaborations with leading Chinese research institutions, including the National Center for Chronic and Non-communicable Disease Control and Prevention of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC), has resulted in new insights from quantitative analyses of large population health and mortality data. We have now extended these fruitful endeavours with collaborations with Ningbo CDC, Ningbo University, and the Peking Union Medical College.

This project has received funding from the Australian Government.

PowerLab newsletter

PoerLab team posing for photo Issue 4
PowerLab team standing as a group on campus in Wollongong Issue 3
PowerLab team posing for group photo Issue 2
Wollongong campus Issue 1

Population Wellbeing and Environment Research Lab (PowerLab)

Room G05, Building 233, ITAMS, Innovation Campus