The University of Newcastle, Australia

Helping Young Australians Stay Healthy

Thursday, 1 March 2018

$1.4 million to help young Australians develop healthy eating habits

A new multi-year partnership between the University and nib foundation will fund research to improve the eating habits of our younger generations. The $1.4 million philanthropic funding from nib foundation will support two projects over the next three years.

Nutrition 4 You (Nu4U) will deliver a web-based personalised nutrition platform to motivate and support 18-24 year olds in developing healthy eating habits. Meanwhile, SWAP-IT aims to support parents and carers to increase the nutritional value of school lunches through a school-based communication app.

"Research is an important part of UON’s vision to create a better future for our regions. nib foundation’s generous support will enable two of our leading research teams to continue work that will help young people live healthier lives." - Brad Holmes, Head of Philanthropic Programs

NU4U Means Healthier Habits IRL

Instead of relying on friends, social media or Dr Google for advice, Nu4U will give 18-24 year olds access to the best available nutrition resources in a familiar online format; while additional support and personalised goal setting will help deliver positive changes IRL (text speak for 'in real life'!).

Led by renowned Accredited Practicing Dietician Professor Clare Collins (PhD (Medicine And Health Science) 1999; GD Clinical Epidemiology 1996) and her team, the project aims to help young people to improve their wellbeing and reduce the significant strain on the healthcare system.

NU4U Project Team

“We know that people are more likely to eat better if they can get personalised nutrition advice and some support;  but young people are less likely to seek dietary advice from qualified health professionals. By going online, we can reach this group faster in a format they’re familiar with, helping young people stay healthy and prevent chronic diseases at an earlier age.” - Professor Clare Collins

Swap what's packed in the lunchbox

Each school day, 135,000 primary school lunchboxes are packed on kitchen benches across the Hunter New England region. Within them lurks more than 270,000 items of junk food, cleverly packaged to appeal to children.
Associate Professor Luke WolfendenAssociate Professor Luke Wolfenden (PhD (Behavioural Science) 2006; B Science (Honours) 2001) has developed the school-based communication app SWAP-IT to help parents increase the nutritional value of school lunches by swapping what’s packed in the lunchbox. The app will be trialled and evaluated in local schools across the  region.

"Instead of providing the necessary fuel for young growing minds, eating too much junk food is contributing to excessive energy intake, unhealthy weight gain and other health issues that impact on children’s physical and mental health. With SWAP-IT, we help parents understand the long- term impact; and guide them to make healthier choices.”

“Good nutrition is one of the most important factors influencing children’s health and wellbeing." - Associate Professor Luke Wolfenden

Supporting research for healthier futures

nib foundation Executive Officer, Amy Tribe (GC Applied Management (Health) 2010) said the new partnership with the University of Newcastle reflected the foundation’s focus on prevention through reducing exposure to the modifiable risk factors associated with chronic disease.

“We are thrilled to help the University of Newcastle establish these nutrition research projects with the hope they may help many Australians live healthier lives.” - Amy Tribe, nib foundation Executive Officer


  • $893,750 philanthropic funding from nib foundation
  • 2019 Ready to launch early next year
  • 60,000 online users targeted per year


  • $499,500 philanthropic funding from nib foundation
  • 135,000 lunchboxes packed every day
  • 270,000 junk food items to swap

Young lives at risk

With 42% of females and 63% of males aged between 25-34 years overweight or obese – and young people prematurely developing preventable chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease – the importance of good nutrition among young Australians is more critical than ever.

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