In touch with … Brittany Johnson

Ahead of International Women’s Day, we caught up event speaker Dr Brittany Johnson to discuss her research into early obesity prevention in children, and asked her how the international networks she’s made are helping improve care around the world.

What is your role at Flinders?

I’m a Postdoctoral Research Fellow, and in February, I started a three-year Early-Mid Career Researcher fellowship funded by The Hospital Research Foundation Group to enhance the adoption and impact of early obesity prevention interventions in routine practice.

How did your journey from student to staff member occur at Flinders?

When I studied my dietetics undergraduate degree, research was the last thing I wanted to do. It was only when I was working in the public health system (in the ‘real world’) that I saw the effect of funding cuts to community nutrition programs due to a lack of evidence of their effectiveness, and spending on initiatives that weren’t community- or evidence-informed. This made me decide to get my honours and PhD.

I finished my PhD at Flinders at the end of 2019 and was fortunate to be offered a post-doc with my primary supervisor, Professor Rebecca Golley. It was a strange transition when I moved back to Flinders part way through my PhD, to be sharing offices with lecturers I’d had in my undergraduate degree – back when the FMC flats and the Wholefoods shop in the Plaza were still around.

What is the focus of your research?

It’s the habits children develop in the early years that last a lifetime. My research seeks to find the best ways to support families and help children develop health-promoting behaviours for the best start to life, such as healthy eating, being active and getting enough sleep. Real-world programs for families of young children can help parents to promote healthy behaviours, but often lead to only small improvements.

Current programs are complex, costly, not scalable, offer a one-size-fits all approach, and struggle to reach families that need support the most. I use behaviour change frameworks to inform engaging, effective and scalable supports for parents to improve foods provided to children and promote activity and sleep opportunities, across a range of settings.

My research enhancing the design of tailored supports for families to help children develop healthy behaviours through the world’s largest collaboration of early obesity prevention randomised controlled trials (the TOPCHILD Collaboration). By embedding these supports into routine services and settings families already engage with, our research will help creating lasting supports for all families.

What’s the favourite part of your job?

It’s the people I get to work with every day. We have an amazing team in the Children and Families Research Group within Flinders’ Caring Futures Institute. But it’s also the broader networks in the EPOCH-Translate Centre for Research Excellence and TOPCHILD Collaboration – which includes researchers from around the world who have conducted interventions/programs with families of young children.

How do  describe your work in three words?

Computer. Babies. Endless-cups-of-tea.

What are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of the positive research culture we foster in the Children and Families Research Group, along with the modelling of balance and what supportive teams celebrate in the highs and lows of the research journey.

How do you relax?

Wine, beach visits, puzzling and almost any form of craft activities, which includes knitting, sewing, scrapping and painting.


Dr Brittany Johnson was awarded a 2022 Early Career Alumni Award, and was also named as a finalist in the The Advertiser Sunday Mail, SkyCity Woman of the Year Awards.

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