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Current research projects

Our current research projects focus on active transport among adolescents living in urban and rural areas in New Zealand as part of the BEATS Research Programme. 

Built Environment and Active Transport to School:
BEATS Research Programme

BEATS_Photo_Z_Projects_2013-2023_418pxThe lack of physical activity and increase of sedentary lifestyle in adolescents is a global health problem. Active transport (walking or cycling) to school is a convenient way to integrate physical activity into everyday life and maintain or increase physical activity levels.

The BEATS Research Programme investigates transport to school habits, the neighbourhood environment and physical activity of high school students living in the Otago region of New Zealand. The study involves surveys and focus groups with adolescents and parents, and an interview with the school principal.

The BEATS Research Programme is based on contemporary ecological models for active transport (walking or cycling) that identify individual, social, environmental and policy influences on behaviour. The core data include objective measurements of physical activity using accelerometers and Geographic Information System analysis of the built environment of home and school neighbourhoods.

This research is designed to advance scientific knowledge and provide service to the government, local community and schools. The results are helping inform future interventions for built environment change, education campaigns, school policy development and city policy development.

The BEATS Research Programme is a collaboration between the University of Otago, the Dunedin City Council, the Dunedin Secondary Schools' Partnership, the Otago Secondary School Principals' Association, and Auckland University of Technology.

Find out more at BEATS Research Programme website: www.otago.ac.nz/beats

Check out the BEATS Research Programme Report 2013-2018

BEATS_Photo_Z_ResProg_2013-2023_650px

  • Investigators: Assoc Prof Sandy Mandic (PI), Assoc Prof Debbie Hopkins, Dr Enrique García Bengoechea, Prof John C Spence, Assoc Prof Kirsten Coppell, Dr Anna Rolleston and Assoc Prof Michael Keall
  • Collaborators: Assoc Prof Antony Moore, Dr Christina Ergler, Dr Susan Sandretto, Assoc Prof Palma Chillón, Assoc Prof Javier Molina-García, Assoc Prof Ana Queralt, Assoc Prof Melody Smith and Prof Jennifer S. Mindell.
  • Funding: Health Research Council of New Zealand, National Heart Foundation of New Zealand, Lottery Health Research Grant, University of Otago Research Grants, Dunedin City Council and internal grants from the School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences.
Component Details
BEATS Study (2014-2017)The original BEATS Study examined individual, social, environmental and policy factors influencing active transport to school in adolescents living in Dunedin, New Zealand. The study generated timely, unique and valuable data to inform future interventions for built environment change, educational campaigns and policy development in urban areas.
BEATS Rural Study (2018-2019)This study examines individual, social, environmental and policy factors influencing active transport to school in adolescents living in rural areas of the Otago region of New Zealand. The study uses the published BEATS Study methodology and conceptual framework. This study has generated valuable rural-specific data to inform future interventions for built environment change, educational campaigns and policy development in rural areas.
BEATS Cultural Study (2018-2019)

This study examines what Māori and Pacific adolescents think about their transport to school. Data have been collected in Dunedin and the wider Bay of Plenty. Understanding the local context, including the cultural factors, is essential for identifying and designing effective interventions to promote active transport to school. 
Find out more

BEATS Natural Experiment (2019-2023) 

Several Dunedin neighbourhoods have been undergoing on-road and off-road cycling infrastructure construction since 2014 and pedestrian-related infrastructure changes in 2018, affecting 6 out of 12 Dunedin secondary schools. The BEATS Natural Experiment study examines the effects of these built environment changes on active transport to school and physical activity levels in Dunedin adolescents, as well as adolescents’ perceptions of the school neighbourhood built environment. Data will be collected in schools using published research methods. Analysis will include 2014/2015 BEATS Study data and contemporary ecological models for active transport that account for individual, social, environmental and policy factors. Findings will inform planning of future built environment and active transport interventions.
Funding: Health Research Council Project Grant (#19/173) ($1,197,487)

The Catalyst Project (subject to funding)This project has been designed to inspire, empower and support adolescents in rural areas of the Otago region to engage with science using BEATS Rural Study data from their own school. As a part of this project, rural adolescents would develop innovative ways to encourage healthy lifestyle behaviours in their schools and communities.

We are always looking for great people to join the BEATS Research Team!

Check out the BEATS Research Programme website and email Dr Sandy Mandic if you are interested in coming on board of the BEATS Research Team.