Dr Tracy Schumacher
School of Medicine and Public Health
- Phone:(02) 49216259
Making healthy food choices easier
Nutrition researcher Tracy Schumacher is working to help Australians across NSW adopt lifelong healthy food choices.
“The decision that's most frequently made is the easiest one - and it’s not very often that that’s also the best one. Typically our environment is not set up for our success, which is what makes it very challenging. So what I say to people is: if you want this to happen, what do we need to put in place before that's actually going to happen?”
From teacher to student
After working for ten years as a teacher across regional Australia, Tracy enjoyed her role, but didn’t feel like it was stretching her far enough.
“So I was looking around for a new job but I really didn’t know what I should do. Then one of my old Year 12 students, who had moved on to do her degree in nutrition and dietetics, gave me a call."
“She said, ‘I’ve found it! I’ve found the degree you need to do!’”
“I looked it up and thought, ‘You’re right, I will like this!’ So I quit my job and moved to Newcastle.”
Tracy got involved with UON’s research community early on in her undergraduate degree, when she started volunteering with the Healthy Dads, Healthy Kids program with Professors Phil Morgan and Robin Callister.
Healthy habits start young
Having completed her Honours degree under the supervision of Professor Clare Collins, Clare approached Tracy about the possibility of doing a PhD.
“I knew that research was a career option, and I knew that I enjoyed it a lot, so when Clare suggested a PhD, I knew that was right for me."
“A collaboration between Professors Clare Collins, Robin Callister and Associate Professor Tracy Burrows meant a project was ready to go - it just needed someone to do it.”
“So I got lucky at the right time with the right supervisors.”
Throughout her PhD, Tracy focused on knowledge translation in the field of cardiovascular disease.
“The evidence is pretty clear as to what we need to eat - but what people are actually doing is so very different. There are so many places where it all breaks down."
“Unfortunately there isn’t any one answer - there are problems right across the spectrum. But this also gives us many opportunities to make improvements.”
Tracy was interested in finding out how and where healthy eating messages are lost or misinterpreted. By conducting interviews, food surveys and intervention trials, Tracy was able to collect data around people’s eating habits and their attitudes towards food.
Although risk of cardiovascular disease tends to be only be identified once people hit their 50s and 60s, this risk is often a consequence of a lifetime’s worth of eating behaviours.
“It starts during childhood.”
“Providing children with non-nutritious foods on a regular basis is actually setting them up for a lifetime of unhealthy food habits that will be hard to break. It also lays down the early foundations of chronic disease that won’t develop for many years to come.”
“People use food to show love and respect – but at the end of the day we're not doing ourselves or our loved ones any favours when we have those special foods reserved in the cupboards that we don’t feed ourselves.”
A rural research team
As part of her current post-doctoral fellowship, Tracy is now working alongside UON researchers and local healthcare workers in Tamworth, NSW.
Tracy will be helping with the analysis of data that’s been collected as part of ongoing community health studies. These studies have been primarily led by maternal health researcher and Director of the Gomeroi gaaynggal Arts Health and Research Programs, Associate Professor Kym Rae.
The team is looking at the impact of lifestyle choices, including nutrition, of both mothers and babies. The aim is to help to improve health outcomes and particularly, to reduce the risk of chronic disease such as heart and kidney disease.
“I’ll be using my database management skills I’ve developed throughout my PhD. There is a lot of data that we need to start pulling together so we can start comparing different outcomes. Our ultimate research aim is to contribute to "close the gap" – to reduce the health inequalities in Australia for Aboriginal people.”
As well as getting on board with these existing projects, Tracy is hoping to set up some new studies, focusing on the differences in nutritional choices between rural and urban populations.
“People in rural communities don’t have the same access and range of choice in health services. I’d like to look at what can be done to make better lifestyle choices easier for people, particularly nutritional ones.”
Tracy’s move to Tamworth is one of a number of steps UON is taking to build their research capacity in rural Australia.
“Right now, rural people are under-represented in research. There is more we can do to address the issues that this population faces. Rural communities should be able to benefit from research as well as those in urban areas.”
Areas of research interest:
- nutrition for the prevention of CVD
- measuring dietary intakes and patterns
- prevention of chronic diseases across the lifespan, ranging from babies to older adults
- origins of chronic disease in Indigenous populations
- investigations of lifestyle related issues that contribute to poorer health outcomes for people living in regional and remote areas
- Doctor of Philosophy, University of Newcastle
- Bachelor of Applied Science (Consumer Science), University of Newcastle
- Diploma in Education, University of Newcastle
- Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics, University of Newcastle
- Cardiovascular disease
- Dietary methodology
- Indigenous health
- Nutrition translation
Fields of Research
|111199||Nutrition and Dietetics not elsewhere classified||100|
|Title||Organisation / Department|
|Postdoctoral Fellow||University of Newcastle
School of Medicine and Public Health
|Dates||Title||Organisation / Department|
|1/02/2016 - 13/01/2017||Project Officer||Faculty of Health and Medicine, University of Newcastle
For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.
Journal article (8 outputs)
Schumacher TL, Burrows TL, Neubeck L, Redfern J, Callister R, Collins CE, 'How dietary evidence for the prevention and treatment of CVD is translated into practice in those with or at high risk of CVD: A systematic review', Public Health Nutrition, 20 30-45 (2017)
Â© The Authors 2016.Objective: CVD is a leading cause of mortality and morbidity, and nutrition is an important lifestyle factor. The aim of the present systematic review was to s... [more]
Â© The Authors 2016.Objective: CVD is a leading cause of mortality and morbidity, and nutrition is an important lifestyle factor. The aim of the present systematic review was to synthesise the literature relating to knowledge translation (KT) of dietary evidence for the prevention and treatment of CVD into practice in populations with or at high risk of CVD. Design: A systematic search of six electronic databases (CINAHL, Cochrane, EMBASE, MEDLINE, PsycINFO and Scopus) was performed. Studies were included if a nutrition or dietary KT was demonstrated to occur with a relevant separate measureable outcome. Quality was assessed using a tool adapted from two quality checklists. Subjects: Population with or at high risk of CVD or clinicians likely to treat this population. Results: A total of 4420 titles and abstracts were screened for inclusion, with 354 full texts retrieved to assess inclusion. Forty-three articles were included in the review, relating to thirty-five separate studies. No studies specifically stated their aim to be KT. Thirty-one studies were in patient or high-risk populations and four targeted health professionals. Few studies stated a theory on which the intervention was based (n 10) and provision of instruction was the most common behaviour change strategy used (n 26). Conclusions: KT in nutrition and dietary studies has been inferred, not stated, with few details provided regarding how dietary knowledge is translated to the end user. This presents challenges for implementation by clinicians and policy and decision makers. Consequently a need exists to improve the quality of publications in this area.
Schumacher T, Burrows T, Rollo M, Spratt N, Callister R, Collins C, 'Effectiveness of a Brief Dietetic Intervention for Hyperlipidaemic Adults Using Individually-Tailored Dietary Feedback', Healthcare, 4 75-75 (2016) [C1]
Schumacher TL, Burrows TL, Rollo ME, Wood LG, Callister R, Collins CE, 'Comparison of fatty acid intakes assessed by a cardiovascular-specific food frequency questionnaire with red blood cell membrane fatty acids in hyperlipidaemic Australian adults: A validation study', European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 70 1433-1438 (2016) [C1]
Â© 2016 Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature. All rights reserved. Background/Objectives:Limited dietary intake tools have been validated specifically for hyperli... [more]
Â© 2016 Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature. All rights reserved. Background/Objectives:Limited dietary intake tools have been validated specifically for hyperlipidaemic adults. The Australian Eating Survey (AES) Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ) was adapted to include foods with cardio-protective properties (CVD-AES). The aims were to estimate dietary fatty acid (FA) intakes derived from the CVD-AES and AES and compare them with red blood cell (RBC) membrane FA content.Subjects/Methods:Dietary intake was measured using the semi-quantitative 120-item AES and 177-item CVD-AES. Nutrient intakes were calculated using AUSNUT 2011-2013. Fasting RBC membrane FAs were assessed using gas chromatography. Extent of agreement between intakes estimated by AES or CVD-AES and RBC membrane composition (% of total FAs) for linoleic acid (LA), alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentanoic acid (EPA), docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) were assessed using Spearman's correlation coefficients, adjusted linear regressions and Kappa statistics.Results:Data from 39 participants (72% female, 59.3Â±11.1 years) indicate stronger positive correlations between RBC membrane FAs and CVD-AES dietary estimates compared with the AES. Significant (P < 0.05) moderate-strong correlations were found between CVD-AES FAs and FA proportions in RBC membranes for EPA (r=0.62), DHA (r=0.53) and DPA (r=0.42), with a moderate correlation for LA (r=0.39) and no correlation with ALA. Significant moderate correlations were found with the AES for DHA (r=0.39), but not for LA, ALA, EPA or DPA.Conclusions:The CVD-AES provides a more accurate estimate of long chain FA intakes in hyperlipidaemic adults, compared with AES estimates. This indicates that a CVD-specific FFQ should be used when evaluating FA intakes in this population.
Schumacher TL, Burrows TL, Thompson DI, Callister R, Spratt NJ, Collins CE, 'The Role of Family in a Dietary Risk Reduction Intervention for Cardiovascular Disease.', Healthcare (Basel), 4 (2016) [C1]
Schumacher TL, Burrows TL, Thompson DI, Spratt NJ, Callister R, Collins CE, 'Feasibility of Recruiting Families into a Heart Disease Prevention Program Based on Dietary Patterns.', Nutrients, 7 7042-7057 (2015) [C1]
Collins CE, Dewar DL, Schumacher TL, Finn T, Morgan PJ, Lubans DR, '12 Month changes in dietary intake of adolescent girls attending schools in low-income communities following the NEAT Girls cluster randomized controlled trial', APPETITE, 73 147-155 (2014) [C1]
Schumacher TL, Dewar DL, Lubans DR, Morgan PJ, Watson J, Guest M, et al., 'Dietary patterns of adolescent girls attending schools in low-income communities highlight low consumption of core foods', Nutrition and Dietetics, 71 127-134 (2014) [C1]
Aim: Overweight and obesity prevalence is high among adolescent girls of low socioeconomic position and this increases their risk of cardiovascular disease and metabolic disorders... [more]
Aim: Overweight and obesity prevalence is high among adolescent girls of low socioeconomic position and this increases their risk of cardiovascular disease and metabolic disorders in adulthood. The aim of this present study was to describe the dietary patterns of adolescent girls in terms of the relative contribution of core food groups to overall diet and by weight status category. Methods: Year 8 female students were recruited from schools in low-income communities. Weight status (i.e. underweight, healthy weight, overweight, obese) was determined using age- and sex-adjusted body mass index (BMI; z score). Dietary intakes were assessed using a validated semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire. Individual foods were collated into core food group or energy-dense, nutrient-poor categories in line with the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (AGHE) and the percentage contribution to total energy intake calculated. Results: Participants (n = 332) were (mean Â± SD) 13.7 Â± 0.4 years old with BMI z score 0.63 Â± 1.22. Few girls met AGHE core food group recommendations for daily serves; meat and substitutes 69.3%, vegetables 28.6%, fruit 23.8%, dairy 15.7% and breads/cereals 5.7%. Total percentage energy derived from energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods was 46.6% (37.2-54.6%) (median (interquartile range)), with takeaways 9.8% (7.0-13.6%), confectionery 7.0% (4.1-10.9%) and packaged snacks 6.8% (4.0-10.7%), with no significant differences by weight status. Conclusions: Core food intakes are poor with excessive consumption of energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods in these adolescent girls. Nutrition education programs targeting this population are needed to address this imbalance. Strategies could include substitution of unhealthy snacks for core food items and greater inclusion of core foods within main meals. Â© 2013 Dietitians Association of Australia.
Schumacher T, Burrows T, Cliff D, Jones R, Okely A, Baur L, et al., 'Dietary Intake Is Related to Multifactor Cardiovascular Risk Score in Obese Boys', Healthcare, 2 282-298 (2014) [C1]
|Show 5 more journal articles|
Conference (7 outputs)
Schumacher T, Hunter S, Kewley C, Scott J, 'Who are the future workere of the aged care industy?... and how can we make them ready to support active ageing?' (2016)
Hunter S, Kewley C, Schumacher T, Scott J, 'Demands and challenges of an ageing population: Ensuring a suitable aged care workforce (Invited speaker)' (2016)
Collins CE, Schumacher T, Burrows T, Spratt N, Callister R, 'Effectiveness of a nutrition knowledge translation intervention in the dietary management of hyperlipidaemia', 4th Annual NHMRC Symposium on Research Translation jointly with CIPHER (2015) [E3]
Schumacher TL, Burrows TL, Rollo ME, Callister R, Collins CE, 'Initiating and measuring appropriate dietary changes in cardiovascular populations', 23rd Annual Conference for Cardiovascular Health and Rehabilitation Association of NSW and ACT (2015) [E3]
Schumacher TL, Burrows TL, Callister R, Spratt NJ, Thompson DI, Collins CE, '"I know what I am supposed to eat butÂ¿" What families thing about eating the Â¿rightÂ¿ food for heart health', 2nd Australian Society for Medical Research Satellite Scientific Meeting (2015) [E3]
Schumacher TL, Burrows TL, Rollo ME, Spratt NJ, Callister R, Collins CE, 'Effectiveness of a dietary intervention to reduce cardiovascular risk factors in a hyperlipidaemic population', Australian Cardiac Rehabilitation Association 25th Annual Scientific Meeting (2015) [E3]
Collins CE, Schumacher R, Dewar DL, Lubans DR, Finn TL, Morgan PJ, et al., 'Dietary patterns of adolescent girls attending schools in low-income communities highlight inadequate consumption of core food groups', Obesity Research & Clinical Practice (2012) [E3]
|Show 4 more conferences|
Grants and Funding
|Number of grants||4|
Click on a grant title below to expand the full details for that specific grant.
20172 grants / $41,000
Funding body: The Sax Institute
|Funding body||The Sax Institute|
|Project Team||Professor Clare Collins, Doctor Megan Rollo, Associate Professor Tracy Burrows, Doctor Tracy Schumacher, Doctor Lesley MacDonald-Wicks, Doctor Amanda Patterson|
|Type Of Funding||Other Public Sector - State|
Funding body: University of Newcastle
|Funding body||University of Newcastle|
|Project Team||Doctor Tracy Schumacher|
|Scheme||Researcher Equipment Grants|
|Type Of Funding||Internal|
20161 grants / $130,000
Funding body: NSW Department of Education
20141 grants / $25,000
Validation of a Food Frequency Questionnaire to detect changes in diet-related cardiovascular disease risk$25,000
Funding body: Hunter Medical Research Institute
|Funding body||Hunter Medical Research Institute|
|Project Team||Professor Clare Collins, Professor Robin Callister, Associate Professor Tracy Burrows, Professor Lisa Wood, Doctor Tracy Schumacher|
|Type Of Funding||Grant - Aust Non Government|
October 15, 2013
University of Newcastle researchers are helping families with a history of cardiovascular disease to become 'heart smart' in a bid to lower their risk factors for heart attack or stroke.
Dr Tracy Schumacher
School of Medicine and Public Health
Faculty of Health and Medicine
Callaghan, NSW 2308