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Amy McColl

Amy completed a Masters of Public Health under the supervision of Dr Kirsten Coppell and Dr Tai Sopoaga.

Family-based Pacific child obesity prevention

Amy's research involved developing and piloting a home-based, tailored intervention for nutrition and physical activity habits for Pacific families in Dunedin. The goal of the research was to gain insight as to why current programmes were not working, and what these families truly wanted from interventions.

Amy loves working with children and families, and helping people navigate the sometimes confusing and overwhelming world of nutrition and activity information. Families live complex, busy lives. She says tailoring a programme is difficult, but well worth it, when you work together to find a solution that truly suits each family.

"My goal is to teach people to make simple changes that are attainable within their lived realities and improve the overall health of their family."

"I get excited working with families and seeing them achieve their goals and become passionate about improving their own health."


Amy would love to continue working with children and families. Ideally she would like to conduct a trial to evaluate this pilot programme to build on the momentum and positive contributions made by the families.

What are the challenges research brings?

Amy says time management is always important, particularly when you are working around the schedules of several families. She's also found it is important to believe in what you are doing and keep pushing forward, despite setbacks.

"It is not a straight line from start to finish but the twists and turns in the path can be where the real important discoveries come from. Seek advice from those around you and in your department, they are invaluable sources of advice and wisdom."

Her advice to someone in school who aspires to research is that research something you are personally passionate about. "It will fuel you through the tough times and when you are finished your accomplishments will mean even more."

From Edmonton to Dunedin

Amy was born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. As a child she loved watching her older sisters play sports, going on ski trips with family to the mountains, and spending summers at the cabin where they were always on the water.

At school she loved English, Science and Math, and Physical Education.

"My sisters and Dad were probably the first influences on my love of sport, particularly basketball, softball and volleyball. My interest in kinesiology grew throughout my college basketball career." 

Amy completed a Bachelors of Kinesiology in Exercise Physiology at the University of Calgary. The various opportunities there introduced Amy to health promotion and public health programmes.

"When I finished my bachelors, a friend and I travelled the South Pacific, visiting Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa. I wasn't sure whether I wanted to continue study or pursue work opportunities at home and do more travelling." 

Amy had applied through an organization called Australearn for opportunities in Australia and New Zealand. When she returned home, she found the University of Otago had been in touch.

"It seemed like the perfect opportunity to both explore a new part of the world, and continue studying. So that is how I ended up in NZ."

Outside of her work Amy enjoys running outdoors, taking on new physical challenges, and practising yoga. "I love spending time with loved ones too."