This theme recognises the importance of maintaining a healthy body weight, limiting alcohol intake, and having a healthy diet for cancer prevention. All the projects have a strong equity focus so all New Zealanders can benefit from good nutrition, physical activity, and reduced harm from alcohol.


Key researchers

  • Ryan Gage (HEPPRU; Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington)
  • Christina McKerchar (HEPPRU; Department of Population Health, University of Otago, Christchurch)
  • Dr Rana Peniamina (Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, University of Otago, Dunedin)
  • Dr Viliami Puloka (HEPPRU; Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington)
  • Associate Professor Lisa Te Morenga (Centre for Public Health Research, Massey University, Wellington)
  • Professor John Potter (Centre for Public Health Research, Massey University, Wellington)
  • Team of researchers at Michigan State University (part of HEPPRU research group)

Completed projects

Big snack

This project used Kids'Cam data to look at children's daily snacking behaviours and identify ways to promote healthy eating. Kids'Cam is an innovative project that involved children using automatic wearable cameras and GPS units. The project involved 168 children between the ages of 11 and 13, who recorded photos every seven seconds and locations every five seconds over four days. The children were randomly selected and recruited from 16 randomly selected schools in the Wellington region.


On average, 12-year-old children snack on unhealthy food and beverages five times a day and consume more unhealthy snacks than healthy snacks.


Gage R, Girling-Butcher M, Joe E, Smith M, Ni Mhurchu, C, McKerchar C, Puloka V, McLean R, Signal, L. The Frequency and Context of Snacking among Children: An Objective Analysis Using Wearable Cameras. Nutrients, 2020. 13(1).

O'Toole C, Gage R, McKerchar C, Puloka V, McLean R, Signal L. (2020). Is snacking the new eating norm for New Zealand children? An urgent call for research. Letter to the Editor. New Zealand Medical Journal, 133(1517), 131-132.

Reducing childhood obesity in New Zealand

This project aimed to identify child-centred interventions to reduce childhood obesity using information about food availability, food marketing, active and non-active transport, and green space use. It included modelling of specific interventions to assess their potential impact.


Green spaces are important for children's health because children use them to be physically active and to socialize during leisure time.


Freeman N, Gage R, Chambers T, Blaschke P, Cook H, Stanley J, Pearson A, Smith M, Barr M, Signal L. Where do the children play? An objective analysis of children's use of green space. Health Promotion International. 2020.

Additional publications pending

Current and upcoming projects

Supporting advocacy for effective nutrition and alcohol policy

This project will utilise available information on the effectiveness of nutrition and alcohol policies in other countries to identify ways to successfully promote healthy eating and physical activity, and to reduce harm from alcohol through New Zealand policies.

Nutrition support for Māori cancer patients

In this project we will work with a Māori health provider, Māori cancer survivors and their whānau to develop and test an intervention that addresses barriers to good nutrition and enhances cancer recovery through culturally appropriate dietary support.

Children's exposure to junk food marketing online

This project will assess the nature and extent of children's exposure to junk food and sugary drinks marketing online and how they engage with it.

Local and regional government action on alcohol and food

In New Zealand, local government has an important role to play in the health and wellbeing of its citizens, which includes having control over alcohol/food advertising, marketing, and availability. This project will assess the state of alcohol and food environment policy at city/district/regional councils and develop policy index tools to allow national and international comparison.

Regulation of marketing of junk food, sugary drinks, and alcohol

Junk food, sugary drinks, and alcohol are heavily marketed which drives their consumption. This project will explore legal options for the regulation of marketing of junk food, sugary drinks, and alcohol in New Zealand.

Public awareness of link between nutrition, alcohol and cancer

This project will assess public awareness of the link between alcohol consumption, food, and the development of cancer and work to promote awareness of these links among the general public.

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