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Ben Darlow imageAssociate Professor, 5th Year Module Convenor Department of Primary Health Care and General Practice

Background and interests

Ben has been based in the Department since 2009 and was appointed Associate Professor in 2021. He is currently involved in several research projects as well as undergraduate teaching.

Ben completed his undergraduate physiotherapy degree at the University of Otago in 1998, and his Master of Sports Physiotherapy at Curtin University (Perth) in 2002. He completed his PhD at the University of Otago in 2014. Ben was registered as a Musculoskeletal physiotherapy specialist in 2015.

Teaching activities

Ben co-convenes the fifth year medicine Primary Health Care and General Practice Module..

He teaches sessions in the 5th year undergraduate programme on the following topics:

  • Providing explanations to patients
  • Understanding and managing pain
  • Low back pain assessment and management in primary care
  • Osteoarthritis management in primary care
  • Physical activity and health

Ben led the redesign of the University of Otago's MBChB pain curriculum.

Ben is also a member of the Wellington Interprofessional Teaching Initiative (WITI) and he teaches interprofessional classes of health students as part of WITI's activities.

Research activities

Ben's key research interests are the assessment and measurement of health beliefs about common musculoskeletal conditions, understanding how these beliefs have been influenced and the impact that these have on well-being, and designing, testing, and implementing interventions to improve knowledge, health care delivery, and outcomes. Ben has also led research exploring interprofessional education.


Ben has led the Otago Research Collaboration for Knee Arthritis (ORKA) since 2016. This groups work has included:

  • Exploring the knowledge and beliefs of people who have knee osteoarthritis.
  • Developing and testing information resources that provide people with knee OA evidence-based information about the condition, the meaning of their symptoms, ways in which they can improve their joint function and quality of life, and services from which they may receive further support.
  • Testing the feasibility of providing OA care through community pharmacy
  • An HRC-funded clinical trial (KneeCAPS) to test the effect identifying Maori and non-Maori with knee OA through community pharmacy.

Ben also led the development of the Osteoarthritis Knowledge Scale (OAKS).

Back pain

Ben has previously explored practitioner and patient attitudes and beliefs related to low back pain and influences upon these. He led a clinical trial and implementation study exploring the feasibility and impact of implementing a new approach (FREE) to explaining and managing back pain in general practice. The website with information about the FREE approach for GPs and people with back pain can be found here. Podcast interviews with Ben discussing his back pain research can be accessed here and here.

Ben has led the development of the Back Pain Attitudes Questionnaire (Back-PAQ) and has been involved in a number of studies that have evaluated the Back-PAQ's measurement properties or produced translations and cross-cultural adaptations. More information about the Back-PAQ can be found here.

Interprofessional education

Ben has been involved in a number of studies evaluating interprofessional education activities. He led the Longitudinal Interprofessional (LIP) Study which investigated changes in interprofessional attitudes and skills over the final year of health professional training and the first three years of professional practice. It explored the influence of undergraduate interprofessional education influences these skills, attitudes, and the career pathways of these graduates. This study involved participants from the disciplines of dentistry, dietetics, medicine, nursing, occupational therapy, oral health, pharmacy, and physiotherapy. Key findings are published here.


Ben is a member of Steering Group of the University of Otago's Pain research theme and co-ordinates the award of theme prizes.

Professional roles

Ben is a member of the Physiotherapy New Zealand Professional Development Committee. Ben is a Specialist Assessor and Competency Assessor for the Physiotherapy Board of New Zealand and has been a member of the Scopes of Practice, Advanced Practice, and Māori Cultural Competence working parties.


Numanovic, P., Darlow, B., & larsson, M. E. H. (2024). The Swedish version of the Back Pain Attitudes Questionnaire: Translation, cross-cultural adaptation and validation. Musculoskeletal Science & Practice, 72, 102984. doi: 10.1016/j.msksp.2024.102984 Journal - Research Article

Kovanur Sampath, K., Darlow, B., Tumilty, S., Shillito, W., Fairs, E., Devan, H., & Thomson, O. P. (2024). “Disproportionate Olympic rings”: The usage of a biopsychosocial (BPS) framework of care when managing people with musculoskeletal pain by osteopaths in Aotearoa/New Zealand: A qualitative study. International Journal of Osteopathic Medicine. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1016/j.ijosm.2024.100728 Journal - Research Article

Darlow, B. (2024). Explaining osteoarthritis to empower participation [Invited]. Proceedings of the New Zealand Pain Society (NZPS) Annual Scientific Meeting: Empowering Pain Management in New Zealand. Retrieved from Conference Contribution - Published proceedings: Abstract

Darlow, B. (2024). Preparing medical students to care for people in pain: Reviewing and updating the Otago Medical School pain curriculum [Invited]. Proceedings of the New Zealand Pain Society (NZPS) Annual Scientific Meeting: Empowering Pain Management in New Zealand. Retrieved from Conference Contribution - Published proceedings: Abstract

Liew, B. X. W., & Darlow, B. (2024). Exploring the complexity of commonly held attitudes and beliefs of low back pain: A network analysis. Frontiers in Medicine, 11, 1327791. doi: 10.3389/fmed.2024.1327791 Journal - Research Article

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