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Masters and PhD thesis opportunities with the BODE³ Programme

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Topics:  Are you interested in public health and prevention? Specifically encouraging healthy eating, reducing obesity, and preventing cardiovascular disease (CVD)? Are you interested in interventions targeted by cardiovascular disease risk? Are you interested in which interventions not only improve health, but also reduce health inequalities, make better use of health dollars, and maybe (just maybe) improve workforce productivity so the retirement age can be lifted? Are you interested in epidemiological methods underlying simulating disease intervention impact on future health gains and costs? 

Skills: Interested in deepening your epidemiological and simulation modelling skills? Want to know how to estimate the cost-effectiveness of preventive interventions? Passionate about converting rich NZ (big) data into useful information for decision-making?

If the above interests you, then BODE3 may have a Masters or PhD thesis option for you. To fit with us, you will need to have a strong academic record – most likely with demonstrated strength in quantitative analysis (e.g. epidemiology, computer science, engineering, statistics, economics). You will need to have a GPA average in excess of 8.0 according to the University of Otago GPA calculator. You will also need to be a NZ or Australian citizen or resident – or intending to become one.

You will be supervised by academics with expertise in one or more of: epidemiological methods; simulation modelling (Markov, multistate lifetables); economics; nutrition; tobacco control; big data; costings and cost data; and public health generally (we have wide research interests – see the publications on our website).

Our work environment is stimulating and you will be sharing office space with other masters and PhD candidates. To view PhD Scholarships available beginning in July 2017 click here.  


As of mid-2016 we have four (at least) PhD and one masters thesis topic areas we invite inquiries about. We also welcome novel suggestions for thesis topics that align with our funded work programme.

1. Targeting preventive interventions by absolute cardiovascular (CVD) risk - (MPH or PhD)

CVD is still a major killer in New Zealand, and a large contributor to health inequalities – and yet it is highly preventable. We are planning to study a range of preventive interventions to reduce CVD risk, and so your thesis (masters or PhD) could be on one or more of these: dietary interventions, physical activity interventions, tobacco control, or pharmacotherapy (from polypills to low-dose aspirin). But as NZ is very good at calculating absolute CVD risk in primary care settings, we aim to determine how much health gain, and how better value-for-money can be achieved if these preventive interventions are well targeted to those who need them most. We can also compare such targeting with population-wide interventions (like raising tobacco tax).

For more information contact Professor Nick Wilson. Send a copy of your CV, academic transcripts and cover letter, in addition to an overview of your interest in this PhD or masters thesis opportunity.

2. How much does it cost? The health system and productivity? (PhD)

Are you interested in the intersection of epidemiology and costing? For example, how much would a tobacco tax intervention cost, or save costs, to: the health system; to the labour market (productivity costs); and for welfare benefits (including superannuation payments because people live longer…).

In BODE3 we are harnessing extraordinarily rich health data linked to not only health system cost data, but also to income data (for productivity costing) and welfare benefit receipt (for sickness benefits and superannuation payments). This is a unique opportunity internationally, let alone in NZ, to make real strides in understanding the societal impacts of public health interventions. You will have ample opportunity to publish. Your supervision will start from an epidemiological basis (one needs to have the epidemiology right first, before working out the future stream of people living, dying and living in poor health), but with strong additional disciplinary input from economics.

For more information contact Professor Tony Blakely. Send a copy of your CV, academic transcripts and cover letter, in addition to an overview of your interest in this PhD thesis opportunity.

3. Epidemiology meets demography, simulation modelling and economic decision-making (PhD)

In recent years there have been surges in methods and applications of simulation modelling (e.g. the impact of tobacco tax on future mortality rates), in parallel with counterfactual analytical approaches to causal inference and mediation (e.g. how much of the association of ethnicity with mortality is mediated by tobacco?). Often at the heart of simulation modelling of public health interventions are structural relationships of variables – causal webs. But do we get it right? Do we get the effect sizes on each ‘arrow’ correct? How can we do better? And does it make much difference to modelled outputs (e.g. change in mortality rates from a tax, and change in inequalities)?

As longevity improves, public health needs to focus more on quality of life – especially around the retirement age to ensure society can afford to support a longer living population. Which begs the question as to which health interventions not only extend quantity and quality of life, but also workforce productivity. To answer such questions requires a degree of sophistication and accuracy in simulation models that is not usually expected; can we do this?

If you are interested in epidemiological methods, applied to policy-relevant questions, then contact Professor Tony Blakely. Send a copy of your CV, academic transcripts and cover letter, in addition to an overview of your interest in this PhD thesis opportunity.