Menzies’ Dr Emma McMahon was recently awarded an Early Career Fellowship as part of the National Health and Medical Research Council’s latest multi-million dollar funding round.

Emma’s fellowship provides support for her salary for the next four years. She shares her thoughts on the fellowship.

What is the title of your fellowship?

Providing timely feedback on diet quality in remote Indigenous communities to support policy makers and other key stakeholders in making decisions to improve food supply and access in remote Indigenous communities

What major health issue does your research hope to address and how?

Poor diet underpins the excessive burden of preventable chronic disease experienced by Indigenous Australians living in remote communities. Community leaders and other decision makers have indicated that timely feedback on diet quality in their communities is fundamental to support them in improving the food supply. This project will provide critical evidence to support this.

I will consult with local stakeholders to develop visual reports that have evidence-based information on diet quality and strategies to improve the food supply, and will test whether the provision of this information is effective in improving diet quality.

What is the most exciting aspect of your funding win?

This fellowship will make it possible to explore a low-cost, low-burden intervention to support local decision makers to improve food supply and access that has considerable potential to impact food and nutrition policy.

I am looking forward to building skills and experience in nutrition policy and advocacy, and working with a multidisciplinary team with extensive skills and expertise. I am also looking forward to travelling to remote communities to consult with key stakeholders and ensure that the research reflects their needs and priorities.

What are the proposed details of your research methodology (sample numbers, sites etc)?

I will use one year of store sales data from each of 40-50 communities to: assess current diet quality against recommendations, and model dietary improvement strategies and their costs and expected health gains. I will then consult with key stakeholders (store owners, Aboriginal Health practitioners, store board members and public health dietitians) to inform content and layout of individual community feedback reports for local policy makers (including diet quality indicators and scenarios linking store practices to diet quality). Finally, I plan to lead a randomised controlled trial to test effectiveness of providing feedback reports to local policy makers on diet quality and store practices.

What are the broader health implications of your fellowship?

This research program has considerable potential for international impact; it directly links with the aims of the ‘International Network for Food and Obesity/non-communicable diseases Research, Monitoring and Action Support’ (INFORMAS), a global network of researchers and public-interest organisations that aims to monitor, benchmark and support actions to create healthy food environments. Further this program will link with international initiatives to support healthy eating for populations living in remote areas, such as those conducted by our collaborators in Canada.

For more information on this area of work please click here.