Research Projects

Research Projects

The School of Health and Society prides itself on its extensive research strengths. Here are just a few of our most recent projects.


Obesity, Food Marketing and Food Environments

  1. Online food and beverage marketing to children and adolescents.

    Becky Freeman, Simon Chapman, Bridget Kelly, Lesley King, Kathy Chapman, Louise Baur, Tim Gill.
    Australian National Preventive Health Agency

    There is a growing body of evidence indicate that unhealthy food marketing impacts on childhood obesity, by influencing the food and drinks that children prefer, request and consume. Children are exposed to unhealthy food marketing through many media channels, and increasingly this includes new media such as the Internet and viral marketing. This project is investigating how the rapid emergence and mass adoption of new media tools, including social networking websites, may be promoting unhealthy foods, influencing dietary choices and contributing to excessive weight gain. This research is exploring how effective marketing regulations could be optimally designed to respond to the rapidly changing media landscape.
  2. International Network for Food and Obesity / Non-communicable Diseases Research, Monitoring and Advocacy for Action (INFORMAS)

    Boyd Swinburn, Gary Sacks, Stefanie Vandevijvere, Tim Lobstein, Mike Rayner, Bridget Kelly, Mary L’Abbé, Cliona Ni Murchu, Sharon Friel, Amanda Lee, Carlos Monteiro, Simón Barquera, Shiriki Kumanyika and others on behalf of the International Obesity Taskforce.
    The Rockefeller Foundation, New Zealand Health Research Council

    INFORMAS is a global network of public-interest NGOs and researchers that aims to monitor and advocate for public and private sector actions to improve food environments and reduce obesity and NCDs. Outcomes of this network will include the development of a global database of monitoring data on food environments for benchmarking of food environments within a country over time and between countries. Through monitoring, INFORMAS will contribute to the strengthening of accountability systems needed to help reduce the burden of obesity and NCDs. Bridget Kelly is the module leader for the INFORMAS monitoring component related to food marketing and promotion.
  3. Comparative studies of children’s exposure to unhealthy food marketing internationally.

    Bridget Kelly, Lesley King, Lana Hebden.

    A series of studies have been undertaken to identify the extent of children’s exposure to unhealthy food marketing across a range of countries, and for a variety of media platforms. This has included a comparison of outdoor food advertising around primary schools in Mongolia and The Philippines, and comparisons of food advertising on television across six cities in the Asia Pacific region in 2012.
  4. Impact of marketing on brand awareness, attitudes and choice.

    Bridget Kelly, Louise Baur, Samantha Thomas, Adrian Bauman, Lesley King, Emma Boyland, Kathy Chapman, Clare Hughes.

    This project will develop new evidence about the influence of unhealthy food marketing on children’s food attitudes, choices and consumption behaviours. Outcomes from this project will contribute to national and international policy discussion about limiting children’s exposure to unhealthy food marketing, by providing original information on the sustained impact of food marketing exposures on children’s overall food intake and dietary quality and the mechanisms that underpin this relationship.


  1. Thomas, A/Prof Samantha L; Daube, Prof Michael M; Gordon, Dr Ross; Hastings, Prof Gerard; Derevensky, Prof Jeffrey.
    ARC Discovery Grant (2014-2017)

    Sports wagering is the fastest growing segment of the gambling market in Australia. Despite widespread concern about the impact of marketing strategies on the risky consumption of wagering products by young men and adolescents, research and policy has failed to keep up with this rapidly growing industry. This study will provide: detailed information about the range of marketing strategies used to sell sports wagering in Australia; important qualitative insights into the impact of these marketing strategies on gambling behaviours; and, recommendations for a comprehensive public health approach to help counter the potential long and short term risks associated with sports wagering marketing.
  2. Rethinking approaches to reducing problem gambling stigma: A review of the lessons learned from anti-stigma social marketing initiatives.

    Associate Professor Samantha Thomas, Prof Stuart Thomas, Prof Mike Daube, Prof Jim Hyde.
    Funded by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation

    This study examines the effectiveness of social marketing campaigns aimed at reducing stigma. The study reviews current social marketing campaigns from mental health, HIV/AIDS and gambling, and interviews key community leaders who developed programs aimed at tackling stigma.

  3. Consumer socialisation and consumption communities in gambling.

    Early career researcher Dr Ross Gordon, mentored by Associate Professor Samantha Thomas.
    Funded by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation

    This project explores the use of brand community in gambling marketing to engage young adults, and measures young adults consumer socialisation to gambling and the impact of consumer socialisation on gambling behaviour. A mixed methods approach featuring will be used. A content analysis of contemporary gambling marketing will examine contemporary marketing used by gambling brands for use of brand community approaches such as fostering consciousness of kind, referencing rituals and traditions, and encouraging a shared sense of moral responsibility within consumer cultures. Exploratory qualitative focus group research with young adults will explore their awareness and responses to gambling marketing including brand community, and explore their consumer socialisation to gambling by examining their aided and unaided awareness, evoked set, brand consumption and perceived importance of using brands with high equity. Findings will offer valuable insight and understanding of how gambling marketing engages young adults and how it influences their gambling behaviour.
  4.  How do social factors interact with gambling messages to shape gambling attitudes, risk/benefit perceptions, and behaviours? A study of Victorian families.

    Associate Professor Samantha Thomas.
    Funded by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation

    This project investigates how parents and children interact with a range of competing messages about gambling products and services. This qualitative media reception studies with families in Victoria Australia explores how parents and children interpret and apply the different messages given within gambling marketing. In particular the project focuses on the role of gambling marketing aligned with Australian sports.
  5. Corporate Social (Ir)responsibility and the Health and Wellbeing of Australian Regions.

    Samantha Thomas, Heather Yeatman, Nan Seuffert, Melanie Randall, Bridget Kelly.
    Funded by Global Challenges Research Program

    While some research has been undertaken on the influence of Corporate Social Responsibility activities at the national and global levels, there has been very limited investigation into the impacts of CSR strategies at the community level.  Such research should include the role that CSR activities may play in softening perceptions of harm, and normalising potentially harmful products by embedding them into the community landscape. The proposed research explores CSR through two case studies: The (Junk) Food industry and the (Pokies based) Clubs Industry. Each of these industries is aligned with a ‘wicked’ health issue for the Illawarra – obesity and problem gambling. Investigating the contributions of CSR activities to the development or mitigation of these issues in a regional area addresses a clear gap in current CSR research.

Health Care Information Systems

  1. Enhancing Patient Management at the Point of Care Using Electronic-Based Clinical Pathways (The Digital Pen project)

    Chief Investigators: Linda Dawson (UoW/Monash University); Virginia Plummer (Monash University); Julie Fisher (Monash University)
    Partner Investigators: Stephen Weeding (formerly NEC); Terri Harlem (Peninsula Health); Justin Aylward (Peninsula Health); David Waterhouse (PMG)
    ARC Linkage Project, LP0989160-R1 (2009-2013)

    The main goal of this project is to trial digital paper and pen based technology for assisting in recording clinical pathway data, including charting by exception, at the bedside. The benefits for nurses and clinicians would include fast, accurate collection of data at the point of care that could be analysed or reformatted in ways that assist clinical decision-making and workflow management as well as resource management and auditing. 

  2. Improving patient safety through advances in the communication of patient information in nursing (The Speech-To-Text project).

    Research Team:
     Maree Johnson (UWS); Jim Basilakis (UWS); Leif Hanlen (NICTA); Hanna Souminen (NICTA); Paula Sanchez (UWS); Linda Dawson (UOW); Barbara Kelly (UMelb); Dominique Estival (UWS)
    Research Associates:
     Vanessa Long (UWS); Ingrid Zukerman (Monash); Wei Xuan  (UW)

  3. The aim of this study is to re-conceptualise communication of patient information in nursing by examining the information conveyed at handover and within nursing notes, and converging the information with speech-recognition and text-analysis technologies. This approach has the potential to save nurses time, reduce duplication, and result in a more complete account of the patient’s condition and care being made available to nurses and others, thus reducing adverse events. This approach will also support the indexing, standardisation, and reuse of clinical information by organising it into a structured format that will retain the benefits of oral/free-text information entry but enable efficient computational-analyses and eventually form part of a patient’s electronic health record.
  4. Health Information Systems Security from a socio-technical-material perspective

    Chief Investigators: Linda Dawson (UOW); Juanita Fernando (Monash University)

    This research is investigating health information system security in Australian public hospitals with a focus on socio-technical and socio-material perspectives.
  5. ISD methodologies in practice

    Chief Investigator: Linda Dawson

    This is a longitudinal project aimed at understanding practitioner perspectives of successful information system development.

Physical Activity

  1. ’Stand Up for Health’ an intervention to reduce adolescent sitting time during the school day.

    Anne-Maree Parrish, Tony Okely, Jo Salmon and Stewart Trost.
    Funded by the Heart Foundation of Australia

    This project will test the feasibility, acceptability, and potential efficacy of the modification of the secondary school physical and policy environment to promote less sitting and more light-intensity physical activity. Such studies have been conducted in workplaces and in primary schools, but none among high school students (adolescents) where the need is high. Adolescents spend over 50% of their day in sedentary behaviour and adolescence is the period of the lifespan where the greatest increases in sedentary behaviour are seen. Over 50% of an adolescents’ time at school is spent sedentary and this increases significantly over the first three years of high school. We have shown that schools are open to working with researchers on reducing the amount of time spent sitting, especially if it can be shown to enhance students’ concentration, on-task behaviour, and academic achievement. However, the feasibility of making changes to school policies and the physical environment, has not been examined in secondary school settings
  2. Acute effects of a “reduced-sitting school day” on energy expenditure and cardio-metabolic health in adolescents.

    Anne-Maree Parrish, Tony Okely, Jo Salmon, Stewart Trost, Dylan Cliff, John Reilly, and Bridget Kelly.

    The aim of this project is to test the acute effects of a ‘reduced sitting school day’ on energy expenditure and cardio-metabolic health in adolescents. A typical school day (comprising 50% of time spent sitting) will be compared with a modified school day (25% of time sitting). Energy expenditure will be measured using a whole room calorimeter. Other outcomes assessed include fasting insulin, glucose tolerance, triglycerides, and HDL cholesterol.
  3. Physical Activity Children and the Environment (PACE): A school playground environmental and policy intervention to promote break time physical activity in primary-school-aged children.

    Anne-Maree Parrish, Tony Okely, Dylan Cliff, Christopher Magee and Marijka Batterham.
    Funded by the UOW Faculty Research committee early career researcher grants

    We previously investigated the relationships between environmental, policy and psychosocial variables and children’s playground physical activity levels.

Indigenous Studies

  1. Indigenous Multi-Disciplinary Health Research Coalition (IMHRC).

    Kathleen Chapham, Paul Chandler, Scott Winch, David Kampers, Samantha Thomas, Valerie Harwood, Peter Kelly.
    Funded  by the Global Challenges Research Program