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Associate Professor Gillian Abel

Gillian AbelHead of Department

DipTech(Cape Technicon) MPH PhD(Otago) PGCertHighE

Email gillian.abel@otago.ac.nz
Tel +64 3 364 3619

Department of Population Health
University of Otago, Christchurch
PO Box 4345
Christchurch 8140

Background

Gillian Abel’s early background was in haematology before taking a career change to public health. She joined the Department of Public Health and General Practice at the University of Otago, Christchurch in 1997 and holds a PhD in public health from this University.

Gillian is expert in mixed methods research using community-based participatory approaches. Her research focuses on vulnerable populations such as sex workers, vulnerable youth and Pacific people. Sex work research is a field in which she has extensive expertise. Her research in this field is firmly located in public health but she applies a sociological lens by analysing data in the context of structural opportunities and constraints faced by sex workers, drawing on concepts of stigma; theories of social exclusion; theories of risk; and feminist theories.

She led a large Health Research Council funded national research project looking at the impact of the Prostitution Reform Act (2003) on the health and safety of sex workers and this study has been influential in informing policy both in New Zealand and internationally. She is currently a collaborator on a large Canadian team project looking at vulnerabilities in the Canadian sex industry.

Gillian teaches two papers in the post-graduate Diploma in Public Health and also teaches into the undergraduate medical programme. She has supervised many students on a variety of public health and health sciences topics.

She is particularly keen to supervise Masters and PhD students with an interest in

  • Vulnerable or stigmatised population groups
  • Community-based research approaches
  • Qualitative and mixed methods research approaches

Teaching 

Research Interests

  • Sex work research
  • Youth health
  • Community-based participatory research
  • Qualitative research

Public Lectures

  • Street-based sex work in Christchurch. Presentation at Community meeting on street-based sex work, Salvation Army, Christchurch, 24 July 2018
  • From harm minimisation to social justice: a public health perspective on decriminalisation of sex work in New Zealand.
    Lecture to University of the Third Age, 11 July 2017, Christchurch.
  • The NZPC and me: A long and productive collaboration.
    Keynote Speaker at Insights" Sex work in New Zealand and Beyond Symposium, 12 February 2016, Wellington
  • Decriminalisation of sex work: Has the Prostitution Reform Act resulted in healthier and safer sex workers?
    Winter Lecture Series: Illuminating New Knowledge, University of Otago, Auckland Centre, 28 July, 2011.
  • Decriminalisation of sex work: Has the Prostitution Reform Act resulted in healthier and safer sex workers?
    Winter Lecture Series: Illuminating New Knowledge, University of Otago, James Cook Hotel Grand Chancellor, Wellington, 27 July, 2011.
  • The Impact of the Prostitution Reform Act on the Health and Safety of Sex Workers,
    Going All the Way Seminar, Parliament Buildings, Wellington, 25 June 2008.
  • The Prostitution Reform Act _ New Zealand’s experience,
    University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, 31 October 2007

Projects

Student Supervision

Student: Rachael Dixon
Degree: PhD
Topic: Exploring the long-term outcomes of senior secondary school Health Education in New Zealand
Co Supervisor: L Burrows

Student: Toyin Kolawole
Degree: PhD
Topic: African Migrants and HIV 
Co Supervisor: Lee Thompson

Student: Christina McKerchar
Degree: PhD
Topic: Food Availability for Māori Children - a rights based approach
Co-supervisors: Louise Signal and Cameron Lacey

Student: Chidimma Aham-Chiabuotu
Degree: PhD
Topic: Exploring Alternative Resources for Raising Awareness, Prevention and Reporting of Sexual violence against Internally Displaced Women of Reproductive Age in North Eastern Nigeria
Co-Supervisor: Lee Thompson

Student: Lev Zhuravsky
Degree: PhD
Topic: Creating Resilience in Health Care Organizations. Role of Shared Leadership in Realigning a Gap between Work as Imagined and Work as Done
Co-Supervisor: Lee Thompson

Student: Susan Bidwell
Degree: PhD
Topic: An exploration of people’s use of dietary supplements and herbal medicines
Co-Supervisor: Lee Thompson

Student: Jen Desrosiers
Degree: PhD
Topic: Changes to Medical Student self-reported Sexual Attraction

2018

Student: Kathryn Goodyear
Degree: MPH
Topic: Talking about menopause: Exploring the lived experience of menopause for nurses

2016

Student: Juliane Brand
Degree: MPH
Topic: A Qualitative Study to Explore the Quality of Life of People Under the Age of 65 in Aged Residential Care

Student: Alex Sullivan
Degree: MPH
Topic: Both sides of the story: understanding the risks of drinking water self-supplies as perceived by New Zealanders living rurally
Co-Supervisor: Cheryl Brunton

Student: Anna Carey
Degree: MPH
Topic: What are the barriers to Aged Residential Care Facilities achieving full attainment in Certification and Surveillance audits?

2015

Student: Rosee Neville
Degree: MPH
Topic: Who You Know and How You Are Known: Children's Perception of Neighbourhood.
Co-supervisor: Lee Thompson

Student: Warren Nairn
Degree: MPH
Topic: The Impact of Homeless Men's Use of City Spaces on their Wellbeing
Co-supervisor: Dr Lee Thompson

2014

Student: Emily Brick
Degree: MPH
Topic: Young Female’s Experiences and Perspectives of Using Social Media for Sexual Health Promotion
Co-supervisor: Jen Woollett

2013

Student: Lev Zhuravsky
Degree: MHealSc
Topic: Crisis Leadership in an Acute Clinical Setting: Christchurch Hospital ICU February 2011

2012

Student: Wai Yee Angela Cho
Degree: MHealSc
TopicCommunity solidarity: Press coverage of the Christchurch earthquake

2011

Student: Nadia Bartholomew
Degree: MPH
Topic: An exploratory study of Muslim women’s attitudes towards and experiences of cervical screening.

Student: Kiri Hider
Degree: MPH
Topic: Midwives' perception of lean thinking in a tertiary birthing unit.

Student: Rebecca Dell
Degree: MPH
Topic: Parents’ attitudes to the HPV vaccination for their daughters.
Co-supervisor: Cheryl Brunton

Student: Melissa Ludeke
Degree: MPH
Topic: I believe once I'm happy with myself I won't need to smoke: Women's views on smoking, tobacco control and cessation.
Co-supervisor:Dr Lee Thompson

Student: Jo Powell,
Degree: MHealSc
Topic: “It’s a different feeling of satisfaction dealing with old people”; perceptions of paid caregivers working in aged residential care.
Co-supervisor: Dr Lee Thompson

2010

Student: Cheryl Ford
Degree: MPH
Topic: Practitioners' perspectives of the barriers to health promotion evaluation.
Co-supervisor: Dr Lee Thompson

Student: Gillian Pearce,
Degree: MHealSc
Topic: Open disclosure of adverse events at Christchurch Hospital; a doctor's perspective.
Co-supervisor: Pauline Barnett

2009

Student: Laura Aileone
Degree: MPH
Topic: Topic: Recruitment & retention of midwives within the Canterbury District Health Board.
Co-supervisor: Suzanne Pitama

Student: Lil Convery
Degree: MPH
Topic: Understanding success in the Green Prescription Programme: A qualitative investigation into patient perspectives about physical activity.
Co-supervisor: Dee Mangin

Student: Lauren Cundall
Degree: MPH
Topic: Finding the offline self in a world online: A phenomenological analysis of massive multiplayer online role playing gaming as a vehicle for adolescent identity.
Co-supervisor: Ria Schroder (National Addiction Centre)

Student: Judith Henninger
Degree: MPH
Topic: Knowledge, attitudes & intentions of General Practitioners and Practice Nurses in Christchurch about HPV & HPV vaccines.
Co-supervisor: Les Toop

2007

Student: Katie Brown
Degree: MPH
Topic: Exploring young women's understandings of the their first experience of sexual intercourse.
Co-supervisor: Lisa Fitzgerald

Student: Kirsty Donaldson
Degree: MPH
Topic: The contexts of young people’s decision-making in early & late sexual initiation.
Co-supervisor: Lisa Fitzgerald

Student: Nikki Rayne
Degree: MPH
Topic:Childhood Obesity: Do primary schools have a role in prevention?
Co-supervisor: Ann Richardson

Student: Tim D Weir
Degree: MPH
Topic: The implementation of occupational health and safety in the New Zealand brothel sector since decriminalisation: Perspectives of brothel operators, regulatory officers and the New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective.
Co-supervisor: Lisa Fitzgerald

2012-2013

logo - Pegasus Health (Charitable) LtdStudent: Annabel Ludeke
Topic: Health literacy in general practice: describing practice nurses' understanding of health literacy.
Supervisors: Gillian Abel, Lynley Cook, Philip Schluter, Ramai Lord, Maria Pasene
Sponsor: Pegasus Health (Charitable) Ltd

2011-2012

Student: Kara Seers
Topic: The use of interpreter services in general practice in Canterbury.
Supervisors: Philip Schluter, Gillian Abel, Lynley Cook

2006-2007

logo - hrcStudent: Nicholas Pascoe
Topic: A critical media analysis of print media reporting on the implementation of the Prostitution Reform Act, 2003-2006.
Supervisors: Lisa Fitzgerald, Gillian Abel, Cheryl Brunton [Dept Public Health & General Practice]
Sponsor: Health Research Council of NZ

2005-2006

Student: Tim Weir
Topic: Post-reform reflections on prostitution legislation: analysis of Phase I context-setting focus groups.
Co-Supervisors: Gillian Abel, Lisa Fitzgerald
Sponsor: Public Health Theme

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Publications

Benoit, C., Maurice, R., Abel, G., Smith, A., Jansson, M., Healey, P., & Magnuson, D. (2019). 'I dodged the stigma bullet': Canadian sex workers' situated responses to occupational stigma. Culture, Health & Sexuality. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/13691058.2019.1576226

Abel, G., & Thompson, L. (2018). "I don't want to look like an AIDS victim": A New Zealand case study of facial lipoatrophy. Health & Social Care in the Community, 26(1), 41-47. doi: 10.1111/hsc.12459

Abel, G. (2018). The problem with sex work policies. Archives of Sexual Behavior. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1007/s10508-018-1366-5

Abel, G. (2018). Sex work is here to stay and decriminalisation improves safety and social justice. BMJ, 361, k2687. doi: 10.1136/bmj.k2687

Abel, G. (2018). Decriminalisation of sex work protects human rights. BMJ, 362, k3630. doi: 10.1136/bmj.k3630

Edited Book - Research

Abel, G., Fitzgerald, L., Healy, C., & with Taylor, A. (Eds.). (2010). Taking the crime out of sex work: New Zealand sex workers' fight for decriminalisation. Bristol, UK: Policy Press, 271p.

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Chapter in Book - Research

Abel, G. (2017). In search of a fair and free society: The regulation of sex work in New Zealand. In E. Ward & G. Wylie (Eds.), Feminism, prostitution and the state: The politics of neo-abolitionism. (pp. 140-154). Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

Abel, G., & Fitzgerald, L. (2010). Conclusion. In G. Abel, L. Fitzgerald, C. Healy & A. Taylor (Eds.), Taking the crime out of sex work: New Zealand sex workers' fight for decriminalisation. (pp. 259-264). Bristol, UK: Policy Press.

Abel, G., & Fitzgerald, L. (2010). Decriminalisation and stigma. In G. Abel, L. Fitzgerald, C. Healy & A. Taylor (Eds.), Taking the crime out of sex work: New Zealand sex workers' fight for decriminalisation. (pp. 239-258). Bristol, UK: Policy Press.

Abel, G., & Fitzgerald, L. (2010). Risk and risk management in sex work post-Prostitution Reform Act: A public health perspective. In G. Abel, L. Fitzgerald, C. Healy & A. Taylor (Eds.), Taking the crime out of sex work: New Zealand sex workers' fight for decriminalisation. (pp. 217-238). Bristol, UK: Policy Press.

Abel, G., Fitzgerald, L., & Brunton, C. (2010). Christchurch School of Medicine study: Methodology and methods. In G. Abel, L. Fitzgerald, C. Healy & A. Taylor (Eds.), Taking the crime out of sex work: New Zealand sex workers' fight for decriminalisation. (pp. 159-172). Bristol, UK: Policy Press.

Abel, G., Healy, C., Bennachie, C., & Reed, A. (2010). The Prostitution Reform Act. In G. Abel, L. Fitzgerald, C. Healy & A. Taylor (Eds.), Taking the crime out of sex work: New Zealand sex workers' fight for decriminalisation. (pp. 75-84). Bristol, UK: Policy Press.

Fitzgerald, L., & Abel, G. (2010). The media and the Prostitution Reform Act. In G. Abel, L. Fitzgerald, C. Healy & A. Taylor (Eds.), Taking the crime out of sex work: New Zealand sex workers' fight for decriminalisation. (pp. 197-216). Bristol, UK: Policy Press.

Abel, G., & Fitzgerald, L. (2010). Introduction. In G. Abel, L. Fitzgerald, C. Healy & A. Taylor (Eds.), Taking the crime out of sex work: New Zealand sex workers' fight for decriminalisation. (pp. 1-24). Bristol, UK: Policy Press.

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Journal - Research Article

Benoit, C., Maurice, R., Abel, G., Smith, A., Jansson, M., Healey, P., & Magnuson, D. (2019). 'I dodged the stigma bullet': Canadian sex workers' situated responses to occupational stigma. Culture, Health & Sexuality. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/13691058.2019.1576226

Abel, G., & Thompson, L. (2018). "I don't want to look like an AIDS victim": A New Zealand case study of facial lipoatrophy. Health & Social Care in the Community, 26(1), 41-47. doi: 10.1111/hsc.12459

Brinsdon, A., Abel, G., & Desrosiers, J. (2017). "I'm taking control": How people living with HIV/AIDS manage stigma in health interactions. AIDS Care, 29(2), 185-188. doi: 10.1080/09540121.2016.1204420

Abel, G., & Wahab, S. (2017). “Build a friendship with them”: The discourse of “at-risk” as a barrier to relationship building between young people who trade sex and social workers. Child & Family Social Work, 22(4), 1391-1398. doi: 10.1111/cfs.12357

Desrosiers, J., Wilkinson, T., Abel, G., & Pitama, S. (2016). Curricular initiatives that enhance student knowledge and perceptions of sexual and gender minority groups: A critical interpretive synthesis. Canadian Medical Education Journal, 7(2), e121-e138.

Thompson, L., & Abel, G. (2016). The work of negotiating HIV as a chronic condition: A qualitative analysis. AIDS Care, 28(12), 1571-1576. doi: 10.1080/09540121.2016.1191615

Wahab, S., & Abel, G. (2016). The Prostitution Reform Act (2003) and social work in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Affilia, 31(4), 418-433. doi: 10.1177/0886109916647764

Meriluoto, L., Webb, R., Masselot, A., Morrish, S., & Abel, G. (2015). Safety in the New Zealand sex industry. New Zealand Economic Papers, 49(3), 296-317. doi: 10.1080/00779954.2015.1041548

Abel, G. (2014). Sex workers’ utilisation of health services in a decriminalised environment. New Zealand Medical Journal, 127(1390). Retrieved from http://www.nzma.org.nz/journal

Abel, G. M. (2014). A decade of decriminalization: Sex work 'down under' but not underground. Criminology & Criminal Justice, 14(5), 580-592. doi: 10.1177/1748895814523024

Seers, K., Cook, L., Abel, G., Schlüter, P. J., & Bridgford, P. (2013). Is it time to talk? Interpreter services use in general practice within Canterbury. Journal of Primary Health Care, 5(2), 129-137.

Ludeke, M., Puni, R., Cook, L., Pasene, M., Abel, G., & Sopoaga, F. (2012). Access to general practice for Pacific peoples: A place for cultural competency. Journal of Primary Health Care, 4(2), 123-130.

Thompson, L., Reeder, T., & Abel, G. (2012). 'I can't get my husband to go and have a colonoscopy': Gender and screening for colorectal cancer. Health, 16(3), 235-249. doi: 10.1177/1363459311403948

Abel, G. M., & Fitzgerald, L. J. (2012). ‘The street's got its advantages’: Movement between sectors of the sex industry in a decriminalised environment. Health, Risk & Society, 14(1), 7-23. doi: 10.1080/13698575.2011.640664

Abel, G. M., & Thompson, L. E. (2011). General practitioners, specialists and surveillance guidelines: Interpreting the socio-clinical context of decision-making. Health, Risk & Society, 13(6), 547-559. doi: 10.1080/13698575.2011.615826

Abel, G. M., & Thompson, L. (2011). What do specialists and GPs think about the introduction of colorectal cancer screening? A qualitative study. New Zealand Medical Journal, 124(1338). Retrieved from http://journal.nzma.org.nz/journal/124-1338/4756/content.pdf

Abel, G. M. (2011). Different stage, different performance: The protective strategy of role play on emotional health in sex work. Social Science & Medicine, 72(7), 1177-1184. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2011.01.021

Abel, G. M., Fitzgerald, L. J., & Brunton, C. (2009). The impact of decriminalisation on the number of sex workers in New Zealand. Journal of Social Policy, 38(3), 515-531. doi: 10.1017/s0047279409003080

Abel, G. M., & Fitzgerald, L. J. (2008). On a fast-track into adulthood: An exploration of transitions into adulthood for street-based sex workers in New Zealand. Journal of Youth Studies, 11(4), 361-376. doi: 10.1080/13676260802104808

Abel, G., & Fitzgerald, L. (2006). 'When you come to it you feel like a dork asking a guy to put a condom on': Is sex education addressing young people's understandings of risk? Sex Education, 6(2), 105-119.

Abel, G., & Brunton, C. (2005). Young people's use of condoms and their perceived vulnerability to sexually transmitted infections. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 29(3), 254-260.

Abel, G. M., & Plumridge, E. W. (2004). Network 'norms' or 'styles' of 'drunken comportment'? Health Education Research, 19(5), 492-500.

Plumridge, E. W., Fitzgerald, L. J., & Abel, G. M. (2002). Performing coolness: Smoking refusal and adolescent identities. Health Education Research, 17(2), 167-179.

Abel, G. M., Plumridge, E. W., & Graham, P. J. (2002). Peers, networks or relationships: Strategies for understanding social dynamics as determinants of smoking behaviour. Drugs, 9(4), 325-338.

Corwin, P., Abel, G., Wells, J. E., Coughlan, E., Bagshaw, S., Sutherland, M., & Plumridge, L. (2002). Chlamydia trachomatis prevalence and sexual behaviour in Christchurch high school students. New Zealand Medical Journal, 115(1158). Retrieved from http://www.nzma.org.nz/journal/115-1158/107/content.pdf

Plumridge, E. W., & Abel, G. M. (2001). A 'segmented' sex industry in New Zealand: Sexual and personal safety of female sex workers. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 25(1), 78-83.

Plumridge, E. W., & Abel, G. M. (2000). Services and information utilised by female sex workers for sexual and physical safety. New Zealand Medical Journal, 113, 370-372.

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Journal - Research Other

Abel, G. (2018). The problem with sex work policies. Archives of Sexual Behavior. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1007/s10508-018-1366-5

Abel, G. (2018). Decriminalisation of sex work protects human rights. BMJ, 362, k3630. doi: 10.1136/bmj.k3630

Abel, G. (2018). Sex work is here to stay and decriminalisation improves safety and social justice. BMJ, 361, k2687. doi: 10.1136/bmj.k2687

Swinburn, B., Vandevijvere, S., on behalf of submitting health professors, including Hornblow, A., Taylor, B., Drummond, B., Murdoch, D., Mangin, D., Sarfati, D., Sellman, D., Sopoaga, F., Thomson, G., Abel, G., Hoek, J., Connor, J., Krebs, J., Mann, J., McCall, J., Broughton, J., Toop, L., Signal, L., Beckert, L., Farella, M., Baker, M., Keall, M., Skeaff, M., Thomson, M., Wilson, N., Chandler, N., Priest, P., Brunton, P., Crampton, P., Gendall, P., Howden-Chapman, P., Taylor, R., Edwards, R., Gauld, R., McGee, R., Mulder, R., Derrett, S., Hales, S., Pullon, S., & Blakely, T. (2017). Proposed new industry code on unhealthy food marketing to children and young people: Will it make a difference? New Zealand Medical Journal, 130(1450), 94-101. Retrieved from http://www.nzma.org.nz/journal

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Conference Contribution - Published proceedings: Abstract

Fitzgerald, L., & Abel, G. (2006). Decriminalisation of the New Zealand sex industry: Reflections on stigma, pleasure and practice post-Prostitution Reform Act. Proceedings of the 9th Social Research Conference on HIV, Hepatitis C and Related Diseases. (pp. 40). [Abstract]

Abel, G. (2004). Styles of sociability in alcohol consumption within young people's networks. Proceedings of the 7th Biennial Adolescent Health and Development Conference and the 3rd Annual Australian-New Zealand Adolescent Health and Development Conference. (pp. 28). Wellington, New Zealand: New Zealand Association for Adolescent Health and Development. [Abstract]

Abel, G., & Plumridge, L. (2002). Network 'norms' or ″styles″ of drunken comportment? Proceedings of the Sociological Association of Aotearoa (NZ) Conference: Social Science in the 21st Century. [Abstract]

Abel, G. (2001). Social exclusion as a determinant risk-taking within adolescent social networks. Proceedings of the SAANZ Conference: Social Diversity and the Politics of Exclusion. [Abstract]

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Conference Contribution - Verbal presentation and other Conference outputs

Abel, G. (2018, June). A public health perspective on social justice and the decriminalisation of sex work in New Zealand. Verbal presentation at the Annual Meeting on Law and Society, Toronto, Canada.

Abel, G. (2016, September). Really working: Sex workers, decriminalisation and social justice. Keynote presentation at the Sex Work Research Hub Symposium on Sex Work, De-criminalisation and Social Justice, York, UK.

Abel, G. (2016, March). From harm minimisation to social justice: A public health perspective on decriminalistation of sex work in New Zealand. Keynote presentation at the 6th Meeting of the European network ProsPol: Comparing European Prostitution Policies: Understanding Scales and Cultures of Governance (COST Action IS1209), Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Abel, G. (2016, March). Managing stigma in New Zealand's decriminalised sex work environment. Verbal presentation at the 6th Meeting of the European network ProsPol: Comparing European Prostitution Policies: Understanding Scales and Cultures of Governance (COST Action IS1209), Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Abel, G. (2016, February). The NZPC and me: A long and productive collaboration. Invited presentation at the New Zealand Prostitutes' Collective Insights Symposium: Sex Work in New Zealand and Beyond, Wellington, New Zealand.

McKerchar, C., Signal, L. N., Abel, G. M., & Lacey, C. J. (2015, May). Healthy food availability for Māori children: A rights based approach. Verbal presentation at the Hui Poutama: Māori Research Symposium, Dunedin, New Zealand.

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