The food environment, food purchasing behaviour and dietary intake

Summary

This study provides an opportunity to go beyond the usual assessment of food intake to examine the broad range of factors within the environments in which we live and work to identify what truly shapes our food selection.  It will examine the extent to which the activity space differs to the residential space and explore the individual, psycho-social and environmental factors which may influence the activity space. Using innovative technology, the study will also investigate how food outlet attendance is related to food purchases (i.e. what individuals purchase where) and subsequently food intakes.

Supervisor(s)

Professor Timothy Gill

Research Location

Camperdown - Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise & Eating Disorders

Program Type

Masters/PHD

Synopsis

The built environment consists of various characteristics which may influence our health e.g. safety, walkability, accessibility to fast food outlets etc. While many relationships between the built environment and health seem logical e.g. neighbourhood walkability and physical activity, attempts to quantify these relationships have been challenging. This is especially so when measuring the influence of the built environment or the ‘food environment’ on food purchasing patterns and intakes.

Researchers examining the food environment tend to measure certain characteristics (e.g. density of fast food outlets, proximity to supermarkets) within a residential space often referred to the community or neighbourhood food environment. The residential space is usually a defined geographical area around individual’s residences e.g. within a 1km buffer zone or census district. However mixed methods among studies assessing the food environment have produced conflicting results.
  As a result, researchers are attempting to re-define the food environment and increasingly recognizing the potential importance of the food environment within individual’s non-residential environments or activity spaces.

Individuals carry out day-to-day activities (e.g. work, social, shopping) outside their residential area, however few studies have explored the influence of the individual’s activity space on food purchasing or intakes. The few studies which have been conducted have examined where (store types, distances travelled), why (store choice, mode of transport choice) and how (mode of transport, as part of daily activities). However there has been a lack of studies assessing what individuals actually purchase from the food outlets visited within their activity space.

This study will examine the extent to which the activity space differs to the residential space and explore the individual, psycho(social) and environmental factors which may influence the activity space. Using innovative technology, the study will also investigate how food outlet attendance is related to food purchases (i.e. what individuals purchase where) and subsequently food intakes.  The study findings may have important policy implications e.g. limiting fast food outlets in a low-income ‘neighbourhood’ may not be effective in reducing fast food intake if individuals purchase fast food in their ‘activity space’

Additional Information

Benefits to the successful candidate
• As part of The Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise & Eating Disorders at the Charles Perkins Centre, you will be part of an internationally recognized multidisciplinary research environment dedicated to reducing obesity and associated complications
• PhD candidates will be mentored for submission of a competitive application for an Australian Postgraduate Award or a University Postgraduate Award (APA/UPA, for domestic students).
• Opportunity for a Top-Up Scholarship for APA or UPA-funded PhD students of high standing, with the possibility of Top-Up Scholarship extension for students who are productive in publishing their research on this topic
• You will receive mentoring to help you develop your career, with individual and group training on scientific writing, conference presentation skills etc
• You will have opportunities to present your research findings at local, national and potentially also at an international biomedical conference
• You will have opportunities to publish your research findings in world-class peer-reviewed biomedical journals of high standing

Selection criteria
• An undergraduate degree in science, medicine or other health discipline (e.g. exercise physiology, nutrition & dietetics, nursing, pharmacy, physiotherapy, psychology, biochemistry, physiology etc.)
• First class honours or equivalent (for PhD candidates)
• An excellent undergraduate academic record (for Masters and PhD candidates)
• Prospective PhD candidates must be eligible for a nationally competitive PhD scholarship, such as an Australian Postgraduate Award or a University Postgraduate Award (APA/UPA, for domestic students) or an equivalent award for international students. Further details.
• A strong commitment to health and medical research in the field of adult nutrition and lifestyle interventions, obesity, weight management and chronic disease prevention
• Exceptional communication skills that will enable you to engender support from participants volunteering for this randomised controlled trial
• Ability to work productively both within a team environment as well as independently as required
• Excellent organisational skills

For further information
Please contact Professor Tim Gill

To apply
Please e-mail a cover letter addressing the above selection criteria, a copy of your CV as well as your academic transcript(s) to Professor Tim Gill.

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Keywords

The food environment, food purchasing behaviour and dietary intake

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 2026

Other opportunities with Professor Timothy Gill