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Gillian Abel Image 2020DipTech(Cape Technicon) MPH PhD(Otago) PGCertHighE


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


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.

Research interests

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

Current Project

Student supervision

Student: Lavanya Pillay
Degree: PhD
Topic: Sex workers' experiences during the COVID 19 pandemic: a comparative analysis between South Africa and New Zealand
Co-supervisor: Dr Rose Crossin


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


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


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


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?


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


logo - Pegasus Health (Charitable) LtdStudent: Jane Reeves
Topic: Meeting cultural competency learning needs of general practice reception staff.
Supervisors: Gillian Abel, Lynley Cook
Sponsor: Pegasus Health


Student: Anna Brinsdon
Topic: 'I am HIV but I am not a patient': Managing marginalised identities in health interactions.
Supervisors: Gillian Able, Jen Desrosiers


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


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


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


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


Scoular, J., Sanders, T., Balderston, S., Abel, G., Brents, B., Ellison, G., & Marriott, N. (2023). Understanding sexual violence in sex working populations: Law, legal consciousness and legal practice in four countries (2021-2023): Study protocol v2.5. PLoS ONE, 18(11), e0283067. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0283067 Journal - Research Other

Ball, J., Pettie, M. A., Poasa, L., & Abel, G. (2023). Understanding youth drinking decline: Similarity and change in the function and social meaning of alcohol use (and non-use) in adolescent cohorts 20 years apart. Drug & Alcohol Review. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1111/dar.13685 Journal - Research Article

Weinhold, C., Abel, G., & Thompson, L. (2023). “They wouldn't get away with it at McDonalds”: Decriminalization, work, and disciplinary power in New Zealand brothels. Gender, Work & Organization, 30, 18-34. doi: 10.1111/gwao.12893 Journal - Research Article

Dixon, R., Abel, G., & Burrows, L. (2023). A case for connecting school-based health education in Aotearoa New Zealand to critical health literacy. Curriculum Studies in Health and Physical Education, 14(2), 127-142. doi: 10.1080/25742981.2022.2082310 Journal - Research Article

Abel, G. (2023). “You’re selling a brand”: Marketing commercial sex online. Sexualities, 26(3), 354-371. doi: 10.1177/13634607211056189 Journal - Research Article

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