Dr Naomi Lee

Conjoint Lecturer

School of Medicine and Public Health

One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to men’s health

Dr Lee Ashton always knew he wanted to make a difference through nutrition and health research, and couldn’t be more delighted that it’s led him to Newcastle.

Hailing from Manchester in the UK, Lee’s passion for sport naturally directed him towards a career in the field of health. However, it was while studying his undergraduate degree in Sport and Exercise Science that the nutrition subjects captured, and held, his interest. A Masters in Nutrition at Leeds University quickly followed, but Lee’s journey to UON to undertake his PhD was inspired by a connection with a UON leader in the field.

“I’d met Professor Clare Collins at a conference and we’d stayed in touch afterwards,” Lee explains. “She was telling me about all the people who work in the PRC for Physical Activity and Nutrition and I realised that all the papers I were currently reading were written by people at UON. I couldn’t believe that all the people I’d been reading in my literature review were in the one place, so I did everything I could to come here.”

Talking about men’s health

Lee came to UON to undertake his PhD, where he developed and tested a participatory-based healthy lifestyle intervention for men aged 18 – 25 years. The HEYMAN program was devised after input and consultation with more than 340 young men. “We’d seen that young men in particular were neglected in health research,” Lee said. “I’d spoken to some young guys who’d gone along to weight-loss groups but didn’t feel engaged or that it appealed to them.”

Because there are so many pressing health issues across this age group, Lee knew that targeting young men’s health was a priority. “During this time of life there are a lot of transitional changes taking place: moving out of home, finding new groups of friends, settling down and starting a family – and all of these changes are key determinants of health,” Lee says. “There’s a lot of research that shows that behaviours that you create as a young adult are likely to continue through life, so if we’re able to target this group, improve their key health behaviours we can set them on a positive health trajectory for their rest of their life.”

A one-size-fits-all approach to weight loss and wellbeing is unlikely to work for young men. “A review of 244 weight loss programs found that only around 23 per cent of program participants were men, and a lot of them would drop out,” Lee affirms. “So by sitting down with young men in focus groups to find out what they wanted, we could work out what were the motivators and the barriers and address these in the program.”

Like young women, young men were focussed on body image, but with an emphasis on strength and muscle-tone, so as one of the suite of tools on offer the HEYMAN program used High Intensity Interval training (HIIT) to deliver a 10 – 15 minute sessions that offers strength and fitness training anywhere at any time. This also solved another key barrier to fitness: a lack of time to exercise.

Accentuate the positive

Focussing on health benefits, rather than negative aspects was a key issue with the young men, “They didn’t want a facilitator who was constantly talking about the negative aspects of weight and health,” Lee says. “They’d rather relate to the positive aspects.”

The same positive messages applied with alcohol consumption. “None of the participants wanted to be told ‘you have to give up alcohol’ so we tried a health-by-stealth approach which has been successfully used in the SHED-IT program by Dr Myles Young and Professor Philip Morgan, which is more about raising awareness and offering options for specific scenarios. It has to be relevant to their lives or they’re not going to do it.”

The fact that the participants played such a strong role in informing the development and implementation of the program is something that Lee attributes to its success. “There were positive outcomes in a range of areas such as activity and diet – and particularly in relation to junk food,” Lee says. “With many of the men, almost 40 per cent of their diet when starting the program was junk food. But in just three months, they reduced that intake by up to eight per cent. There were also reported improvements in mental health.”

A tight team

The team at UON’s PRC for Physical and Activity and Nutrition offer an enormous scope for collaboration, and Lee was very fortunate to be paired with some of the best for his PhD. “I worked with Professor Clare Collins who’s a nutrition/dietitian expert, Dr Megan Rollo who’s also a nutrition/dietitian researcher but is also an e-health expert, and then Dr Melinda Hutchesson whose focus is on young adults, and Professor Phil Morgan who has expertise in mens’ health and physical activity,” Lee says. “They all had expertise related to my PhD and I was so lucky to have these people to bounce ideas off and to have them help deliver and design the program.”

Lee is motivated by making a difference, and is buoyed by staying in touch with some of his pilot participants. “There were so many late nights and long hours when I was completing my PhD, but, at the end, when you see the guys and see the changes they’ve made, it makes it so worthwhile. You can see the changes in them and it’s great to see them continuing on with the health and fitness changes they’ve made.”

“Cost is a massive barrier to exercise, so we try to make them aware of activities that are available for little-to-no money. You can do high intensity training just using your own body weight, we used an app called Freeletics that the guys can continue to use after our program finishes,” Lee says. “We’re so lucky in Australia as we have free ocean baths for swimming, open parklands to exercise in, and in Newcastle we now have parkruns – a free 5km run for people of all fitness levels,” Lee says.

“One of our HEYMAN sessions involved participation in a local parkrun session and I recently bumped into a guy who told me he’s bought his own fitness tracker and is still doing the parkrun here at Uni every week.”

This pilot program is now informing a larger study that the team are looking to roll out across the country. “We’re now looking at cost-effective approaches such as using e-health to deliver the messages – particularly in rural and remote areas.”

Focussing on translation of research, Lee’s ultimate aim is to see this kind of program rolled out to as many young men as possible, across Australia and in rural areas. “We’re lucky at UON in that we have the Department of Rural Health that enables collaboration on projects across Callahan and Tamworth,” says Lee.

The team in the PRC for PAN is a continual motivation for Lee. “I’ve never worked anywhere like this, everyone always comes together and springs ideas off each other – even though we all come from different areas. When we go to conferences people are envious of what we have. I feel really lucky to have been given this opportunity to come here and to continue to work here after my PhD.”

Taking the local and making it global is the ultimate goal: “When I see the work that Phil’s done with Healthy Dads, Healthy Kids being rolled out in the US and the UK that’s something that I aspire to.”

Giving men the tools they need to live a healthier life isn’t a short-term fix, but Lee firmly believes that educating men about the small changes they can make will help them with their health and wellbeing for the rest of their lives.

One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to men’s health

Dr Lee Ashton always knew he wanted to make a difference through nutrition and health research, and couldn’t be more delighted that it’s led him to Newcastle.

Read more

Making great spaces and places

Putting the needs of end-users above all else, Dr Juhyun Lee is seeking to ensure designs for the built environment are coherent, clear and shareable.

Cities are fascinating. Young and old, contemporary and heritage-listed, rich and poor, breathtakingly beautiful and unattractively bleak, they are all a result of human action, shrewdly embodying local, national and global flows in politics, the economy and society. Tightly knotted and testifying to the intersections of public policy, art and urban governance, each is representative of transformation too. Dr Juhyun Lee, an authority on architectural planning, is untangling their multiple, multilayered and interdependent influences through his research.

“I’m advancing contextual design,” he elaborates.

“It was introduced in the late 1990s and works on the proviso that being knowledgeable about users – their fundamental intents, desires and drivers – will lead to better final products.”

“The process can be more widely applied to provide a formal understanding of designers’ decisions in the field as well.”

“Our aim is to figure out why and how they did what they did, and predict if, why and how they’ll do the same again.”

Passionate and pioneering, Juhyun is also making significant contributions to three other related areas, including design cognition, design analysis and architectural/design computing.

“The former refers to the study of human information processing in design using different theoretical and empirical models,” he explains.

“The second and third refer to physical, real-world surroundings in which some elements are supplemented by digital sensory input and computing, such as sound, video, graphics or contextual data.”

Helping out at home

Juhyun’s research career began in 2006, when he undertook a PhD in Housing and Interior Design at Yonsei University in his native South Korea. Chiefly focused on merging physical and virtual design factors into an embodied environment, the four-year probe sought to craft and propose consensual strategic planning schemes for mixed-use development to support urban regeneration in Seoul.

“These were based on a literature review and questionnaire survey data,” the bilinguist recalls.

“The formal framework consists of four methodological stages – database development, categorisation, factor analysis and correlation.”

“It serves as a viable reference for policymakers and developers.”

Relocating to the Centre for Human Ecology at Kyunghee University after receiving his award in 2010, Juhyun looked to take the reins on another research assignment – this time on an “augmented reality-based design system.”

“This work stemmed from our realisation of the potential of smart phones to deliver powerful networking and mobility,” he shares.

“These devices have similarly opened up opportunities to expand mixed reality (MR), which commonly overlaps computer-generated images and real images in the physical world.”

“We approached the managers of several leading MR companies in South Korea and asked them about their MR applications, such as iNeedCoffee and Ovjet, which overcame the limitations of time and place to communicate with mobile users through the location of their favourites.”

“We also introduced the concept of context immersion, which suggests the experience of owning and operating a smart phone does not have to be confined to the phone’s small display screen.”

“Instead, smart phones can allow people to be nomadic and autonomous and connect with many others simultaneously.”

A new home

Invited to the University of Newcastle as a visiting academic in early 2011, Juhyun was appointed to a full-time research position in 2012. Hitting the ground running, the senior lecturer set up a sensory design laboratory within the Centre for Interdisciplinary Built Environment Research in 2013, and collaborated with Professor Michael Ostwald on a grammatical and syntactical study of architecture in the Hunter in 2014.

“We wanted to give both practicing professionals and our undergraduate students an insight into the discipline,” he comments.

“The objective was to show them different ways of producing and assessing design variations in a number of contexts.”

From 2014 Juhyun has invested in a project entitled ‘Multicultural design communication in architectural design’ as well.

Awarded an Innovation Grant from the Office of Teaching and Learning in 2016, Juhyun reveals that he “will be developing pedagogical solutions to the linguistic and cultural barriers in design education.”

“I will undertake the first inquiry into the relationship between language and design cognition too.”

“My overarching goal is to support efficient and sustainable interactions between people in design teams, particularly those in the Asia Pacific region.”

Related links

Juhyun Lee

Making great spaces and places

Putting the needs of end-users above all else, Dr Juhyun Lee is seeking to ensure designs for the built environment are coherent, clear and shareable.

Read more


UON innovation and development grants

January 19, 2016

The University of Newcastle has achieved success in the latest round of OLT grants.

Dr Naomi Lee


Conjoint Lecturer
School of Medicine and Public Health
Faculty of Health and Medicine

Contact Details

Email n.lee@newcastle.edu.au