Dr Jill Haszard completed her PhD in 2013 as part of The MInT Study – a weight screening and treatment programme for children. She currently works as a biostatistician for the Department of Human Nutrition.
MInT Study (Motivational Interviewing in Treatment)
Jill looked at the feeding practices that parents used with children aged 4 to 8 years and how these were related to demographics and children’s diet, weight and fussy eating behaviours.
"Parents want to know how to feed their children – how to help them to eat and enjoy healthy food."
The influence of parental feeding practices is not well understood but there are clear relationships with both diet and weight. We hope to determine the feeding practices that should and shouldn’t be recommended to parents. Clear recommendations are urgently needed for the treatment of childhood obesity.
Research interests have personal angle
Jill had struggled with her weight all of her life. As a parent of young children she was really interested in furthering the understanding of how parents can guide their children towards a healthy life.
"It is wonderful gift to give your children, although it may be difficult at times."
Answering parents' questions key
She also recognised that parents need support and not be judged or blamed. The MInT Study respected all of these ideals and offered her the opportunity to learn more about the parent’s experience.
The most exciting part was working with the parents that were engaged in the process and seeing them take control of their own children’s future. "I am excited about potentially being able to offer answers to the many questions parents ask about how to feed their children, particularly around fussy eating."
Pathway to research
Jill grew up in Gisborne and was always good at maths and science (but hated PE!). She had quite a few teachers who were really enthusiastic about their topic and they were all influential on her path. "They demonstrated that it was OK to enjoy maths and science and that it is exciting." She also credits her parents and her husband for their active support.
She has worked her way through a:
- BSc in Theoretical Physics
- MSc in Mathematics
- BBiomedSc in Nutrition and metabolism in Human Health
- PhD in Human Nutrition
She is currently studying for a PGDip in Biostatistics.
Being a researcher and a mum
Jill started her BBiomedSc part-time while her children were preschoolers.
"This was such a wonderful thing for me – inspiring and challenging me and giving me the opportunity to be away from my children for short times, making me appreciate them even more. I thought I’d never get to the end of my education (and I’m still not there yet!) but the education is so much more than the end-point. The education is the best bit! My children are still at primary school and doing a PhD with young kids worked really well for me. Yes, I was busy, but I was also flexible and my children are really proud of their Mum. They have been exposed to higher education and the joy it can bring."
Associate Professor Sheila Williams encouraged her towards biostatistics, which is a great use of her qualifications and skills, and offers a steady career doing what she enjoys. Jill is very grateful for that!
Her current role assists post-graduate students with the statistics in their research projects. Her aim is to continue to gain experience in biostatistics and be exposed to lots of exciting research in human health. "I also hope to continue my research in the field of parental feeding practices and childhood overweight."
Outside of work Jill enjoys being with her family, cooking and walking.