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Profile_Tim_ChambersBPhEd(Hons 1st Class) BA PhD (Public Health)
Senior Research Fellow; HEIRU

Contact details

Tel +64 21 100 4066

Research interests

Tim is a Fulbright Scholar (Harvard University) and a Senior Research Fellow in the Health, Environment and Infection Research Unit at the University of Otago, Wellington. His research interests include environmental health and infectious diseases. Tim's current research investigates the potential health burden of drinking water contamination, with a focus on nitrate contamination. Tim has also contributed to the Covid-19 response through his work on digital contact tracing for multiple Government agencies.

Dr Chambers uses spatial and quantitative research methods to understand the connections between place, space and health. Tim's research also uses innovative technological solutions – such as wearable cameras, GPS devices and Bluetooth tracking devices to understand complex human behaviour. Tim's research agenda also has a strong equity and policy focus.

Dr Chambers completed his PhD in public health at the University of Otago in 2018. Dr Chambers also has degrees in Physical Education and Classical Studies. Tim was a research associate at Imperial College London before returning to the University of Otago in April 2020.

Current projects

The potential public health burden of nitrate contamination in drinking water

There is increasing evidence linking exposure to nitrate in drinking water to multiple negative health outcomes, including colorectal cancer, preterm births and neural tube defects. In many studies, the risk of the adverse health outcome was found to occur at drinking water nitrate levels significantly lower than New Zealand's 'Maximum Acceptable Value' of 11.3 mg/L nitrate-nitrogen (Drinking water Standards for New Zealand 2005 (revised 2018)).

Primary aim: to investigate the potential public health burden of nitrate contamination in New Zealand drinking water.

Nitrate contamination in drinking water and adverse birth outcomes emerging evidence is concerning for New Zealand

Public health response to report on potential risk of nitrate from drinking water

Interventions to reduce alcohol's harms to health: a modelling study

Alcohol consumption is a substantial health risk factor and is ranked seventh globally and fifth for the NZ population as a cause of morbidity and mortality in 2016. A wealth of international studies identify benefits from diverse alcohol interventions and the World Health Organization's (WHO's) SAFER framework identifies highly effective strategies for governments to adopt. However, this evidence does not provide decision-makers with the information they require. The types of information that would really assist decision makers include answers to questions like:

“Which interventions will achieve the biggest health benefits if implemented in NZ?” and “Which will have the biggest impact in reducing health inequalities?”

Primary aim: Investigate the potential health impacts and health system cost impacts of key alcohol interventions for Māori and non-Māori.

Digital contact tracing: Trials of a Bluetooth-enabled contact tracing card

Speed and accuracy of contact tracing are key to controlling COVID-19 outbreaks. Contact tracing breaks the chains of human-to-human transmission through the identification and quarantining of people exposed to a confirmed COVID-19 case. Traditional contact tracing is labour intensive, reactive and not easily scalable. Digital contact tracing (DCT) uses technology to track and trace contacts to address the limitations of manual contact tracing. Modelling studies assessing DCT show a reduction in secondary cases if these solutions are used together with other public health measures. However, to date, there is limited empirical evidence demonstrating the efficacy of DCT solutions. Further, large questions around the acceptability and privacy of these solutions remain.

Primary aim: to assess the acceptability and efficacy of a Bluetooth-enabled contact tracing card.

In the media


Royal, H., Mannetje, A., Hales, S., Douwes, J., Berry, M., & Chambers, T. (2024). Nitrate in drinking water and pregnancy outcomes: A narrative review of epidemiological evidence and proposed biological mechanisms. PLoS Water, 3(1), e0000214. doi: 10.1371/journal.pwat.0000214

Chambers, T., Mizdrak, A., Herbert, S., Davies, A., & Jones, A. (2024). The estimated health impact of alcohol interventions in New Zealand: A modelling study. Addiction, 119, 125-136. doi: 10.1111/add.16331

Prickett, M., Chambers, T., & Hales, S. (2023). When the first barrier fails: Public health and policy implications of nitrate contamination of a municipal drinking water source in Aotearoa New Zealand. Australasian Journal of Water Resources. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/13241583.2023.2272324

Prickett, M., Chambers, T., Wilson, N., Baker, M., Broadbent, A., Kerr, J., & Hales, S. (2023). Where do the parties stand? Protecting water sources and drinking water quality. The Briefing, (28 August). Retrieved from

Puente-Sierra, M., Chambers, T., Marek, L., Broadbent, J. M., O'Brien, B., & Hobbs, M. (2023). The development and validation of a nationwide dataset of water distribution zones in Aotearoa New Zealand: A cross-sectional geospatial study [Data article]. Data in Brief, 49, 109349. doi: 10.1016/j.dib.2023.109349

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