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Postgraduate students of the Health Promotion and Policy Research Unit (HePPRU)

HePPRU has an active community of students undertaking postgraduate studies in health promotion and policy related research. We also have a range of opportunities for postgraduate study – at master's or PhD level.

Enquiries are welcome for all those interested in any aspect of public policy that has population health implications, and from those with any academic background – from public health and health sciences, to anthropology and economics. Particular opportunities are available for qualitative and quantitative research in public policies relating to tobacco, food, and alcohol. Aspects of policy relating to these areas could include trade, media, marketing, public perceptions, and many other facets.

Researchers at HePPRU would be delighted to hear from potential students who are interested in carrying out research within their areas of interest and expertise. You may have your own ideas you wish to pursue, or wish to find out about the sorts of opportunities that are available currently. Either way please feel free to get in touch with the Directors of HePPRU – Professor Richard Edwards or Associate Professor Louise Signal.

The following lists give the names, titles and supervisors for recently completed PhD and Master's students and their projects. All supervisors are from the Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington, unless stated otherwise.

Current PhD students

Nazahiah Bakri

  • Thesis title: Assessing the Impact of Promoting Healthy Lifestyle at Workplace and its Relation with Oral Health-Related Quality of Life
  • Supervisor: Moira Smith

Keresi Rokorua Bako

  • Thesis title: Enhancing diabetes self-management in Fiji: A mixed method study with patients and health care providers
  • Supervisors: Louise Signal, Dianne Sika-Paotonu, Masoud Mohammadnez

Tom Bergen

  • Thesis title: Actively promoting lifelong priorities; what physical activity interventions best enhance the wellbeing of New Zealand rangatahi?
  • Supervisors: Louise Signal, Anja Mizdrak, Justin Richards

Shashi Chandra

  • Thesis title: Enhancing diabetes self-management in South Asian (Indian) population in New Zealand: A mixed method study with patients and health care providers
  • Supervisors: Moira Smith, Louise Signal

Amanda D'Souza

  • Thesis title: Healthy public policy for children: Overcoming the barriers
  • Supervisors: Louise Signal, Richard Edwards

Marcus Gurtner

  • Thesis title: Kids online: An objective analysis of children's lives online
  • Supervisors: Moira Smith, Louise Signal, Ryan Gage

Eloise Pollard

  • Thesis title: Planning for equity: Evaluating the application of the Health Equity Assessment Tool (HEAT) to promote health equity for Māori
  • Supervisors: Louise Signal, Bridget Robson

Sione Tu’itahi

  • Thesis title: Tufunga Fonua: Tongan Indigenous approaches to promoting planetary health and human wellbeing
  • Supervisors: Louise Signal, Viliami Puloka

Shan Valiyara

  • Thesis title: Children’s access to and use of environmental sustainability-related content online and its impact on them
  • Supervisors: Richard Edwards, Moira Smith

Completed PhD students 

Christina McKerchar

  • Thesis title: Healthy food availability for Māori children – A rights based approach
  • Supervisors: Louise Signal, Cameron Lacey, Gilian Abel
  • Awarded: 2021

Matthew Shaw

  • Thesis title: From the community to the policymakers: A critical approach to understanding the process in creating a poverty measure and addressing the needs of the resource poor
  • Supervisors: Louise Signal, Geoff Fougere
  • Awarded: 2021

Andrea Teng

  • Thesis title: Impact of sugar-sweetened beverage taxation in the Pacific
  • Supervisors: Louise Signal, Nick Wilson
  • Awarded: 2021

John White

    • Thesis title: Business influences on government decisions affecting public health: A Case study from Australia and New Zealand
    • Supervisors: George Thomson, Louise Signal
    • Awarded: 2019

Michelle Barr

  • Thesis title: Children’s exposure to food and beverage marketing in public places
  • Supervisors: Louise Signal, Moira Smith
  • Awarded: 2018

Tim Chambers

  • Thesis title: The Nature and Extent of Alcohol Advertising in Children’s Environments.
  • Supervisors: Louise Signal, Moira Smith
  • Awarded: 2018

Moira Smith

  • Thesis title: Food environment and sport
  • Supervisors: Louise Signal, Richard Edwards, Janet Hoek
  • Awarded: 2016

Judy Li

  • Thesis title: The effectiveness of graphic warnings on cigarette packs in improving knowledge of harms of smoking and encouraging quitting
  • Supervisors: Richard Edwards, Janet Hoek (Professor of Marketing, University of Otago)
  • Awarded: 2015

Mary-Ann Carter

  • Thesis title: Is Junk Food Promoted Through Sport
  • Supervisors: Louise Signal, Richard Edwards, Janet Hoek
  • Awarded: 2014

Marie Russell

  • Thesis title: How do passengers use and value their public health travel time, and what is its value for health? 
  • Supervisors: Louise Signal, James Stanley, Jackie Cumming (Health Services Research Centre, Victoria University of Wellington).
  • Awarded: 2013

Sharon Ponniah

  • Thesis title: Addressing smoking among young people in New Zealand. A study of youth smoking an smoking cessation. 
  • Supervisors: Nick Wilson, Richard Edwards
  • Awarded: 2011

Nicole Hernamson

  • Thesis Title: New Zealand social service community organisations as advocates for health: Not just "social justice heroes always on the perphery". 
  • Supervisors: Louise Signal, Peter King (Family Centre Social Policy Research Unit)
  • Awarded: 2011

Gabrielle Jenkin

  • Thesis Title: Individuals, the environment or inequalities: Industry and public health framing of obesity and its presence in New Zealand Government policy on food and nutrition. 
  • Supervisors: Louise Signal, George Thomson 
  • Awarded: 2010

Mat Walton

  • Thesis Title: Promoting Childhood Nutrition through Primary schools: A complex analysis of policy options 
  • Supervisors: Louise Signal, George Thomson
  • Awarded: 2009

Anna Matheson

  • Thesis Title: Treating communities for health inequalities: Complexity matters. 
  • Supervisors: Kevin Dew, Jackie Cumming (Health Services Research Centre, Victoria University of Wellington).
  • Awarded: 2008

Current masters' students

Ben Latavao

  • Thesis title: Pacific children’s exposure to gambling and gambling-like activities online
  • Supervisors: Moira Smith, Viliami Puloka

Aoife Kenny

  • Thesis title: Children’s exposure to alcohol and alcohol marketing online
  • Supervisor: Moira Smith

Tom Worters

  • Thesis title: Unhealthy commodity marketing and children: Barriers and avenues to policy reform
  • Supervisors: Louise Signal, Christina McKerchar

Completed masters' students

Symraina Pandy

  • Thesis title: Optimising the structure and function of Public Health in New Zealand
  • Supervisors: Michael Baker, Louise Delany
  • Awarded: 2021

Andrew Reynolds

  • Thesis title : Measuring the effectiveness of population-level initiatives towards sustainable healthy diets: A systematic review with modelling
  • Supervisors: Cristina Cleghorn, Cliona Ni Mhurchu and Christina McKerchar
  • Awarded: 2021

Anne Russell

  • Thesis title: Estimating unmet dental need and the associated resource utilisation costs, and treatment funding options, for dependent older New Zealanders
  • Supervisors: Moira Smith, William Leung
  • Awarded: 2021

Sally Thomas

  • Thesis title: Is there an association between incidence of Group A Streptococcus (GAS) skin infections and Acute Rheumatic Fever (ARF) in New Zealand?
  • Supervisors: Michael Baker, Susan Jack
  • Awarded: 2021

Hycenta Uwikunda

  • Thesis title: The past, present and future of the New Zealand Needle exchange programme
  • Supervisors: Michael Baker, Amanda Kvalsvig
  • Awarded: 2021

Emilee Walby

  • Thesis title: The use of fiscal policy to address the noncommunicable disease crisis: Identifying food taxes, tariffs and subsidies in Pacific Island Countries and Territories
  • Supervisors: Amanda Jones, Moira Smith and Andrea Teng
  • Awarded: 2021

Oonagh Wesley-Smith

  • Thesis title: Social networks and social support- important components of maternal wellbeing, but which mothers have access to them?
  • Supervisors: Amanda Kvalsvig, Louise Signal and Jason Gurney
  • Awarded: 2021

Loma Veatupu

  • Thesis title: Kids’Cam Tonga: The me’akai Togan children eat in Ha’apai
  • Supervisors: Louise Signal, Viliami Puloka, Rose Richards
  • Awarded: 2020

Mereana Wilson

  • Thesis title: The Waikōura Framework: a bicultural systems model for management of Lake Rotorua.
  • Supervisors: William Leung, Paul Blaschke
  • Awarded: 2020

Sharon Sime

  • Thesis title: Testing the feasibility of using automated cameras to identify the barriers and facilitators to self-management by people living with T2DM in NZ
  • Supervisors: Lousie Signal, Moira Smith
  • Awarded: 2016

Sarah Dallas

  • Thesis title: Reversing the decay of preschool oral health
  • Supervisors: Moira Smith, Andrew Waa
  • Awarded: 2018

Belinda Lowe

  • Thesis title: Assessing the nature and extent of Children’s screen time
  • Supervisors: Moira Smith, Richard Jaine
  • Awarded: 2017

Marcus Gurtner

  • Thesis title: Researching the extent of exposure of children to smoking in ‘private’ places
  • Supervisors: George Thomson, Richard Jaine
  • Awarded: 2016

Ryan Gage

  • Thesis title: Skin cancer prevention in NZ school-children: a Markov cost-utility model using data from Kids’Cam automated cameras.
  • Supervisors: William Leung, Louise Signal
  • Awarded: 2016

Nadia Freeman

  • Thesis title: Children’s recreational use of urban green spaces: Impact of household deprivation and urban green space quality
  • Supervisors: Paul Blaschke, Hera Cook
  • Awarded: 2017

Leanne Toledo

  • Dissertation Title: Council Smokefree Parks and Playgrounds policy - longer term evaluation
  • Supervisors: George Thomson, Richard Edwards
  • Awarded: 2012

Bronwyn Ferry

  • Dissertation Title: The journey to become a late-start tobacco smoker and the influence of transitional vulnerability: a pilot qualitative study exploring why those aged 18 years and over take up smoking.
  • Supervisors: George Thomson, Richard Edwards
  • Awarded: 2012

Andrew Waa

  • Thesis Title: Understanding determinants of smoking uptake and potential interventions to address them
  • Supervisors: Richard Edwards, Bridget Robson
  • Awarded: 2013

Sainimere Boladuadua

  • Dissertation Title: Fijian women’s perspectives on cervical cancer screening and supports and barriers to use of cervical screening services
  • Supervisors: Louise Signal, Diana Sarfati
  • Awarded: 2011

Mili Burnette

  • Dissertation Title: Tagata Pasefika working together to reduce obesity: A case study of the implementation of Healthy Eating Healthy Action (HEHA) among Pacific communities in the Hutt Valley.
  • Supervisors: Louise Signal, Jackie Cumming
  • Awarded: 2010

Carly Woodham

  • Thesis Title: Food desert or food swamp? An indepth exploration of neighbourhood food environments in Eastern Porirua and Whitby.
  • Supervisors: Louise Signal, Vivienne Ivory
  • Awarded: 2009

Mary Duignan

  • Dissertation Title: Sun protection in New Zealand Teacher-led early childhood centres
  • Supervisors: Louise Signal
  • Awarded: 2011

Michelle Mako

  • Dissertation Title: A qualitative investigation into the effects of food advertising in shaping diets of tamariki Māori aged 10-12
  • Supervisors: Louise Signal, Donna Cormack
  • Awarded: 2009

Toby Regan

  • Dissertation Title: The role of public health services in poverty reduction in New Zealand
  • Supervisors: Louise Signal, Anna Matheson
  • Awarded: 2009

Janine Mardani

  • Dissertation Title: Does every child count in Aotearoa New Zealand? A child rights-based evaluation of Working For Families policy development.
  • Supervisors: Louise Signal, Richard Edwards
  • Awarded: 2008

Keitha Small

  • Thesis Title: The talk of food tax
  • Supervisors: Louise Signal, Carolyn Watts
  • Awarded: 2008