PhD candidate Louisa Matwiejczyk shares her research on the world stage at the annual ISBNPA Meeting

Louisa Matwiejczyk travelled to the beautiful city of Vancouver BC in June to present her research at the annual International Society for Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity Meeting. She reports on the conference highlights and presenting her PhD research.

I was looking for a conference which was truly International, delivered outcomes from cutting edge research, combined interests in diet and physical activity, shared research which impacted on behaviour, would profile my work and facilitated networking with like-minded researchers, educators and scholars. The International Society of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (ISBNPA) Annual Meeting in Victoria, BC, Canada did just that! Held over four days in June this annual conference is organised by ISBNPA to conduct scientific meetings in which current research on behavioural issues in nutrition and physical activity are discussed by researchers internationally, in related fields. The conference was not dominated by one country, but was a cosmopolitan collaboration with presenters from Canada, the United States, South America, the UK, Europe (particularly the Scandinavian countries), New Zealand, Australia and other Asian situated countries.

As a PhD candidate for the last three years and as a health professional working in the nutrition and physical activity space for many years, of particular interest was the translation of evidence-based best practice into early childhood settings and work with food environments. Professor Paul Estabrooks’s keynote session on ‘Dissemination, implementation, knowledge translation and scale up of nutrition and physical activity interventions in pursuit of public health impact’ was inspiring as well as informative. Supported by concurrent sessions on the home environment and parental influence on children’s health behaviours, adapting research tested childhood obesity interventions for community implementation and the implementation and evaluation of health promotion programs, the area of knowledge translation was heavily debated. Two observations were that there are a number of validated frameworks for knowledge translation and the scale-up of interventions. Ironically however the co-production and modification of the interventions by the users changes the objectives which makes publishing challenging.

Louisa Matwiejczyk (centre) at the ISBNPA Conference with colleagues from Belgium and USA workshopping the architecture of nudging.

Of equal interest was nudging and choice architecture within food environments. This topic started with a pre-conference workshop on the promises and pitfalls of nudging where we designed our own nudges. Facilitated by Professor Emely de Vet from Wageningen University & Research, and Professor Denise de Ridder from Utrecht University, both in the Netherlands, nudging relates to the fast and intuitive thinking people engage with when typically deciding about food choices. Most of our public health nutrition-related strategies target reasoned and informed thinking and so nudging are of interest with very young children in influential food environments away from the home. Other topics of note related to the potential of new technologies to deliver and evaluate nutrition and the integration of physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep guidelines. Canada is leading the way with its newly released children and youth guidelines.

Unique to ISBNPA is the effort made at every opportunity to introduce participants to each other and build networks. From made to sit with strangers to ‘speed dating’ in Special Interest Group meetings, I came away with potential collaborations despite my modest contribution. It was however from presenting the poster ‘Building the capacity of Australian child care centres to support healthy eating’ that I had the chance to share my work and discuss in detail other interventions with the researchers I have been following for the last four years. This career-defining conference was made possible by a grant from Healthy Development Adelaide, for which I am extremely grateful.

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