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Behavioural Epidemiology

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Laboratory head

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Latest Achievements

In tobacco control, documenting novel population data on correlates of tobacco use, outcomes of telephone and print delivered smoking cessation interventions; this provided key evidence to inform tobacco control strategies; co-writing the original 'Can Quit Book' (the precursor of the self-help cessation guides used to this day) and conducting the NHMRC trial led to the national 'Quit Coach' smoking-cessation website.

In physical activity, conducting measurement studies had a strong scientific influence and led to initiatives developing the Active Australia Survey; since the mid-1990s, this has been the standard method used by the Commonwealth and states to characterise physical activity in population-health surveys; publishing a set of peer-reviewed papers on the outcomes of state and national mass media campaigns that remain internationally-unique findings.

In physical activity policy formulation, conducting the Why People Do and Do Not Exercise project for the Commonwealth in the early 1980s and more-listen providing some of the key elements of the evidence base for the Heart Foundation's Built Environment and Walking, and Healthy Spaces and Places initiatives.

In sedentary behaviour, the most highly-cited and highly-published researcher by international metrics, US-NCI advisory roles, invited presentations and chapters for mainstream exercise science and physical activity textbooks.

Web of Science and Clarivate highly-cited researcher in the Social Sciences

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Professor Neville Owen
Contributing insights for chronic disease prevention, occupational health and better clinical practice.


About the Behavioural Epidemiology laboratory

The Behavioural Epidemiology laboratory is concerned with sedentary behaviour (put simply, too much sitting) in the prevention and management of major chronic diseases, specifically type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

The goal of our program is to contribute insights to underpin new public health, workplace and clinical programs and policies. We aim to understand and influence the environmental, social and organisational factors that can increase physical activity and reduce sitting time.

We work closely with the Physical Activity laboratory to build comprehensive scientific links between epidemiological evidence; clinical/experimental and mechanistic investigations; intervention trials on changing sitting time in real-world settings; and, large-scale population studies of environment/behaviour relationships in key target settings such as workplaces, transportation and schools.

Why focus on sitting time?

Our research will provide much-needed evidence to inform new approaches to reducing Australia's disease burden from excessive sedentary time and physical inactivity.

The program of studies on sedentary behaviour, physical activity and health conducted by the Behavioural Epidemiology laboratory includes:

  • Cross-sectional and prospective epidemiologic observational studies.
  • Measurement development studies using state-of-the-art accelerometer and inclinometer devices.
  • Studies on the multiple levels of influence on physical activity and sedentary behaviour, focused on understanding environmental determinants.
  • Field-based intervention trials on the feasibility and outcomes of changing physical activity and sedentary behaviour.
  • The ongoing refinement of conceptual models to integrate the evidence and explain multiple levels of influence on physical activity and sedentary behaviour.
  • Studies to identify new research-translation implications.
  • Studies to inform clinical practice and public health policy.

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With the rising number of Australians affected by diabetes, heart disease and stroke, the need for research is more critical than ever.

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