The University of Newcastle, Australia

Identification of Evidence-Based Practice Gaps to Determine International and National Priorities for School-Based Chronic Disease Prevention

Closing Date: 13 November 2020Apply Now

PhD Scholarship

The National Centre of Implementation Science (a NHMRC funded Centre for Research Excellence) is seeking EOIs from candidates interested in pursuing a PhD program to identify international evidence-based practice gaps in school-based programs targeting nutrition, physical activity, tobacco and alcohol use.


Research Project Background

Chronic diseases are the leading cause of morbidity and mortality globally and in Australia. As diet, physical activity, weight status, tobacco and alcohol use are among the primary modifiable risks for a range of chronic diseases, global initiatives prioritise the implementation of evidence-based interventions to address these risks. In particular, the implementation of interventions in community organisations such as schools are recommended given their existing infrastructure and capacity to access a large proportion of the population. To improve the implementation of existing evidence-based chronic disease prevention interventions a better understanding of the effectiveness of such approaches, and the extent of their implementation in practice is required.

The PhD project is focused on undertaking a range of studies focused on assessing international ‘evidence-practice gaps’ of interventions targeting diet, physical activity, obesity and alcohol and tobacco use in schools to identify interventions with strong evidence of effect that are not routinely implemented at scale. Globally billions are invested in school-based chronic disease prevention. This research aims to provide international guidance regarding which school-based programs should be prioritised by governments for implementation in the future. The project will be undertaken as part of the National Centre of Implementation Science (funded by the NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in Implementation for Community Chronic Disease Prevention). The candidate will collaborate closely with the Hunter New England Population Health Research Group (HNEPHRG).

Role of The PhD Candidate

Under the guidance of the supervisory team comprised of international leaders in implementation science, chronic disease prevention and evidence synthesis (including Associate Professor Luke Wolfenden, Emeritus Professor Adrian Bauman and Dr Rebecca Hodder), the PhD candidate will be expected to contribute to the development of research and intervention design, undertake implementation, undertake data analyses and lead research manuscripts commensurate with the requirements of a thesis by publication.

Profiles of supervisory team:

Research Groups

The National Centre of Implementation Science (NCOIS) is a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funded Centre for Research Excellence comprising of a broad range of internationally renowned Australian and international researchers in the fields of chronic disease prevention, implementation science and evidence synthesis. The NCOIS executes research to improve the implementation of chronic disease prevention programs in community settings and develops initiatives to build research capacity in implementation science, facilitate knowledge translation and collaboration (for more information see

Hunter New England Population Health Research Group (HNEPHRG) is co-located and collaborates with Hunter New England Population Health (HNEPH), one of Australia’s largest population health unit to conduct applied chronic disease prevention and health services research. The group approach involves active co-production of evidence with end users to generate pragmatic interventions that can be easily translated. Collectively, the group publishes over 60 manuscripts per year, and are consistently successful in obtaining nationally competitive grants annually from the NHMRC or Australian Research Council (ARC). The group also collectively supervises up to 20 PhD students undertaking complex interventions in a range of community and health care settings.

HNEPHRG has conducted of some of the largest trials in the world to improve the implementation of health promotion policies and practices in community settings such as schools, childcare services, and sporting clubs, including Australia’s largest child obesity prevention program ($7million) Good for Kids, Good for Life. Interventions recently conducted by the research group have been awarded a NSW Premiers Award for the Prevention of Childhood Obesity and a NSW Health Preventive Health award. For more information about the group please see the manuscript recently published in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology.

Additional Support and Professional Development Opportunities

The students will be a member of a multi-disciplinary team and co-located with their nominated supervisor and given opportunities to engage with leading public health researchers, health psychologists, dietitians, education consultants and health promotion practitioners, within Australia and internationally. The student will have access to administration support, statisticians, IT and be provided with office space. The position will also be supported by the research environment of the University of Newcastle and Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) and the appointed students will be encouraged to join in staff development, meetings and other opportunities.

Students will also be eligible for membership of the University of Newcastle’s Priority Research Centre for Health Behaviour and have access to funding to support travel, statistical analyses and open access publication. 1. Wolfenden L, Yoong SL, Williams CM, Grimshaw J, Durrheim DN, Gillham K, Wiggers J (2017). Embedding researchers in health service organizations improves research translation and health service performance: the Australian Hunter New England Population Health example. J Clin Epidemiol. 85:3-11

PhD Scholarship details

Funding: $28,092 per annum (2020 rate) indexed annually. For a PhD candidate, the living allowance scholarship is for 3.5 years and the tuition fee scholarship is for 4 years.

Supervisor: Dr Rebecca Hodder

Available to: Domestic students


Eligibility Criteria

The PhD scholarship is for a student commencing before the end of January 2021. We encourage applicants with a relevant undergraduate or postgraduate degree (including health, education, social and behavioural sciences) with an interest in population health to apply. Whilst graduates who have completed an Honors project is advantageous it is not essential. Students in their final year of study are eligible to apply.

Eligibility criteria:

  1. The applicant will need to meet the minimum eligibility criteria for admission
  2. A strong academic/research track record with; an undergraduate grade point average equal to or greater than 5.25; OR a first or 2A class honours degree (or equivalent); OR a Masters degree with 25% research training minimum;
  3. Excellent organisational, time management, written and verbal communication skills;
  4. The ability to work both independently and in a team environment;
  5. Demonstrated ability to write reports or peer-reviewed manuscripts;
  6. Commitment to Indigenous health

Application Procedure

Interested applicants should send an email expressing their interest along with scanned copies of their academic transcripts, CV, a brief statement of their research interests and a proposal that specifically links them to the research project.

Please send the email expressing interest to by 5pm on 13 November 2020.

Applications Close 13 November 2020 Apply Now

Contact Dr Rebecca Hodder
Phone +61 2 4924 6472

PhD and Research MastersFind out more