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Health Sciences profile

Professor Gillian Abel

PositionProfessor and Head of Department
DepartmentDepartment of Population Health (Christchurch)
QualificationsMPH DipTech DPH, PhD
Research summaryVulnerable populations

Research

Professor 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 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
  • Publications

    Weinhold, C., Abel, G., & Thompson, L. (2022). “They wouldn't get away with it at McDonalds”: Decriminalization, work, and disciplinary power in New Zealand brothels. Gender, Work & Organization. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1111/gwao.12893

    Dixon, R., Abel, G., & Burrows, L. (2022). A case for connecting school-based health education in Aotearoa New Zealand to critical health literacy. Curriculum Studies in Health and Physical Education. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/25742981.2022.2082310

    McKerchar, C., Gage, R., Smith, M., Lacey, C., Abel, G., Ni Mhurchu, C., & Signal, L. (2022). Children’s community nutrition environment, food and drink purchases and consumption on journeys between home and school: A wearable camera study. Nutrients, 14, 1995. doi: 10.3390/nu14101995

    Abel, G. (2021). “You’re selling a brand”: Marketing commercial sex online. Sexualities. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1177/13634607211056189

    Abel, G., & Ludeke, M. (2021). Business like any other? New Zealand’s brothel industry post-decriminalisation. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 24(9), 1243-1256. doi: 10.1080/13691058.2021.1942553

    Armstrong, L., & Abel, G. (Eds.). (2020). Sex work and the New Zealand model: Decriminalisation and social change. Bristol, UK: Bristol University Press, 244p. doi: 10.2307/j.ctv1453kvn

    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.

    Edited Book - Research

    Abel, G., & Healy, C. (2021). Sex worker-led provision of services in New Zealand: Optimising health and safety in a decriminalised context. In S. M. Goldenberg, R. Morgan Thomas, A. Forbes & S. Baral (Eds.), Sex work, health, and human rights: Global inequities, challenges, and opportunities for action. (pp. 175-188). Cham, Switzerland: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-64171-9_10

    Chapter in Book - Research

    Abel, G. (2020). Contested space: Street-based sex workers and community engagement. In L. Armstrong & G. Abel (Eds.), Sex work and the New Zealand model: Decriminalisation and social change. (pp. 199-221). Bristol, UK: Bristol University Press. doi: 10.2307/j.ctv1453kvn.15

    Chapter in Book - Research

    Armstrong, L., & Abel, G. (2020). Introduction. In L. Armstrong & G. Abel (Eds.), Sex work and the New Zealand model: Decriminalisation and social change. (pp. 1-16). Bristol, UK: Bristol University Press. doi: 10.2307/j.ctv1453kvn.6

    Chapter in Book - Research

    Armstrong, L., Abel, G., & Roguski, M. (2020). Fear of trafficking or implicit prejudice? Migrant sex workers and the impacts of Section 19. In L. Armstrong & G. Abel (Eds.), Sex work and the New Zealand model: Decriminalisation and social change. (pp. 113-134). Bristol, UK: Bristol University Press. doi: 10.2307/j.ctv1453kvn.11

    Chapter in Book - Research

    Abel, G. (2018). Decriminalisation and social justice: A public health perspective on sex work. In S. A. FitzGerald & K. McGarry (Eds.), Realising justice for sex workers: An agenda for change. (pp. 123-140). London, UK: Rowman & Littlefield International.

    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.

    Chapter in Book - Research

    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.

    Chapter in Book - Research

    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.

    Chapter in Book - Research

    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.

    Chapter in Book - Research

    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.

    Chapter in Book - Research

    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.

    Chapter in Book - Research

    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.

    Chapter in Book - Research

    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.

    Chapter in Book - Research

    Dixon, R., Abel, G., & Burrows, L. (2022). A case for connecting school-based health education in Aotearoa New Zealand to critical health literacy. Curriculum Studies in Health and Physical Education. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/25742981.2022.2082310

    Journal - Research Article

    McKerchar, C., Gage, R., Smith, M., Lacey, C., Abel, G., Ni Mhurchu, C., & Signal, L. (2022). Children’s community nutrition environment, food and drink purchases and consumption on journeys between home and school: A wearable camera study. Nutrients, 14, 1995. doi: 10.3390/nu14101995

    Journal - Research Article

    Weinhold, C., Abel, G., & Thompson, L. (2022). “They wouldn't get away with it at McDonalds”: Decriminalization, work, and disciplinary power in New Zealand brothels. Gender, Work & Organization. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1111/gwao.12893

    Journal - Research Article

    Abel, G. (2021). “You’re selling a brand”: Marketing commercial sex online. Sexualities. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1177/13634607211056189

    Journal - Research Article

    Abel, G., & Ludeke, M. (2021). Brothels as sites of third-party exploitation? Decriminalisation and sex workers’ employment rights. Social Sciences, 10, 3. doi: 10.3390/socsci10010003

    Journal - Research Article

    Abel, G., & Ludeke, M. (2021). Business like any other? New Zealand’s brothel industry post-decriminalisation. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 24(9), 1243-1256. doi: 10.1080/13691058.2021.1942553

    Journal - Research Article

    Aham-Chiabuotu, C. B., Abel, G., & Thompson, L. (2021). 'Men don't have patience': Sexuality, pleasure and danger in displacement settings in Northcentral Nigeria. Global Public Health, 16(5), 801-813. doi: 10.1080/17441692.2019.1690539

    Journal - Research Article

    Dixon, R., Abel, G., & Burrows, L. (2021). Putting assemblage to work to explore pedagogical practices in health education in Aotearoa New Zealand. Health Education, 121(2), 174-188. doi: 10.1108/HE-05-2020-0034

    Journal - Research Article

    McKerchar, C., Lacey, C., Abel, G., & Signal, L. (2021). Ensuring the right to food for indigenous children: A case study of stakeholder perspectives on policy options to ensure the rights of tamariki Māori to healthy food. International Journal for Equity in Health, 20, 67. doi: 10.1186/s12939-021-01407-4

    Journal - Research Article

    Benoit, C., Maurice, R., Abel, G., Smith, A., Jansson, M., Healey, P., & Magnuson, D. (2020). 'I dodged the stigma bullet': Canadian sex workers' situated responses to occupational stigma. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 22(1), 81-95. doi: 10.1080/13691058.2019.1576226

    Journal - Research Article

    McKerchar, C., King, P., Lacey, C., Abel, G., & Signal, L. (2020). Rights-based approaches to improving food availability for tamariki Māori: A narrative literature review and theory-based synthesis. MAI Journal, 9(3), 237-248. doi: 10.20507/MAIJournal.2020.9.3.6

    Journal - Research Article

    McKerchar, C., Smith, M., Gage, R., Williman, J., Abel, G., Lacey, C., Ni Mhurchu, C., & Signal, L. (2020). Kids in a candy store: An objective analysis of children's interactions with food in convenience stores. Nutrients, 12(7), 2143. doi: 10.3390/nu12072143

    Journal - Research Article

    McKerchar, C., Smith, M., Stanley, J., Barr, M., Chambers, T., Abel, G., Lacey, C., Gage, R., … Signal, L. (2020). Food store environment examination: FoodSee: A new method to study the food store environment using wearable cameras. Global Health Promotion, 27(3), 73-81. doi: 10.1177/1757975919859575

    Journal - Research Article

    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

    Journal - Research Article

    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

    Journal - Research Article

    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

    Journal - Research Article

    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 / Revue canadienne de l'éducation médicale, 7(2), e121-e138.

    Journal - Research Article

    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

    Journal - Research Article

    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

    Journal - Research Article

    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

    Journal - Research Article

    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

    Journal - Research Article

    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

    Journal - Research Article

    Seers, K., Cook, L., Abel, G., Schluter, 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.

    Journal - Research Article

    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

    Journal - Research Article

    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.

    Journal - Research Article

    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

    Journal - Research Article

    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

    Journal - Research Article

    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

    Journal - Research Article

    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

    Journal - Research Article

    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

    Journal - Research Article

    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

    Journal - Research Article

    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.

    Journal - Research Article

    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.

    Journal - Research Article

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

    Journal - Research Article

    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.

    Journal - Research Article

    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

    Journal - Research Article

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

    Journal - Research Article

    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.

    Journal - Research Article

    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.

    Journal - Research Article

    Abel, G. (2019). The problem with sex work policies. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 48, 1925-1929. doi: 10.1007/s10508-018-1366-5

    Journal - Research Other

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

    Journal - Research Other

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

    Journal - Research Other

    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

    Journal - Research Other

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