Healthy eating in children: The eating patterns that develop in childhood affects our adult eating patterns and risk of disease and illness. As such, childhood is a critical period to help support young children and their families to develop healthy eating habits. My research investigates novel ways of delivering this support across the population.
Implementation and Dissemination research: Once we have determined that an intervention is effective in improving health behaviours, how do we ensure that it is rolled-out so that as many people as possible can benefit from it? I am interested in how we can systematically scale-up interventions for a population-wide impact.
Online systems research: The emergence of online systems, used by millions of people everyday, worldwide, provides an incredible opportunity for public health. My research investigates how we can use these existing systems and embed health promotion strategies and principles within them, to improve population health.
Schools and Childcare Services: My research is focused on settings where almost all children spend a lot of their time. Interventions delivered through these settings have the potential to impact on a huge number of children and have the potential to be adopted sustainably to benefit child health in the long term.
I love being able to scientifically and rigorously answer some of the burning questions regarding our health. How do we encourage kids to eat healthier? How do we best support parents to do this? How do the systems we engage with influence our eating behaviours? How do the settings we live, work and play in affect our eating behaviours? I want to test new ideas and strategies to help make healthy choices the easy choices.
I would love for my research to make a real difference to the health and wellbeing of the community. My work tries to make healthy options the easy options by seamlessly embedding health promotion strategies and principles in systems and settings that we access everyday.
Dr Rebecca Wyse is a Heart Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow with the University of Newcastle School of Medicine and Public Health. Her research is helping to reduce nutrition-related chronic diseases by empowering parents and children with digitally delivered, evidence-based information and tools.
Rebecca began to explore eating behaviours during her PhD candidateship, which saw her modify home food settings to increase fruit and vegetable consumption. Focusing on the way we eat and what we eat, Rebecca also sought to make fresh produce more appealing to young families. With a distinct focus on family food habits, Rebecca’s PhD research intervention successfully increased fruit and vegetable consumption for up to 12 months in children and up to 18 months in parents. These impressive results were incorporated into the NSW Health Draft Obesity Prevention Strategy 2012. In 2018, Rebecca received funding to trial the intervention further.
Another of Rebecca’s tech-based trials recently received NHMRC funding to be expanded into government, Catholic and independent schools across NSW. Building on established stoplight colour coding in primary school canteens, the trial uses online ordering systems to deliver a range of strategies providing automated nutritional feedback to parents. For example, before confirming their child’s lunch order using the online ordering system, parents can receive personalised graphical feedback about the healthiness of the meal they are about to purchase. The initial Online Canteen trial was successfully piloted in 2016 and the magnitude of the change was large: children at participating schools had lunch orders with approximately 500 fewer kilojoules than the lunch orders of children at control schools. In 2018, she was awarded a two-year Heart Foundation fellowship to investigate the long-term impact and cost-effectiveness of using online canteens to deliver healthy eating interventions to children.
Rebecca is committed to effective implementation. Her interventions strive to be scalable, fundable, and influential. By informing policy and practice, Rebecca’s work is contributing to improved health outcomes at a population level. Over her research career, Rebecca has gained vast experience implementing interventions that target health risk factors (poor nutrition, physical inactivity, excessive weight gain and tobacco use) across a range of key community settings (including health services, schools and childcare services). She has led trials of intervention strategies directly targeting health behaviours (efficacy trials) as well as strategies to facilitate intervention adoption across community settings (translational trials).
Rebecca’s recent work has delivered settings-based, digitally driven interventions within schools and childcare services to help change organisational policies and practices and encourage healthy behaviours among families. Among her many achievements was her contribution to the development, implementation and evaluation of Australia’s largest ever ($7 million) childhood obesity prevention project—Good for Kids, Good for Life—across 400 primary schools and 300 childcare centres.
I am focused on supporting children and their families to develop healthy eating habits, which will improve their health, and reduce their risk of chronic disease across their lifespan.