Student & ECR Spotlight – Bente Øvrebø, a PhD-student evaluating the possible effects of free school fruit on childhood growth and obesity from a national natural experiment

Please tell us about your career pathway to date (positions and institutes).

I completed a BSc in Nutrition at Atlantis Medical College and an MSc in Clinical Health Science with a specialization in Obesity and Health at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Before starting as a PhD-student at the University of Agder, Kristiansand, Norway. I worked for three years as a lecturer in nutrition and part-time as a research assistant. I began in my PhD position in January 2018; however, I have had a period working at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health due to lack of receiving data. Currently, I am working part-time in the Ministry of Health and Care Services and the rest of the time on my PhD-project.

How would you briefly describe your current research/job to someone who is not familiar with your field of study/work? What is your main research interest?

In the period 2007-2014 in Norway, free fruit was offered to school children in some schools, but not in others. By using data on weight and height in 8-year old and 13-year old children, measured in the two growth studies, we are trying to estimate the effect of a free fruit program in schools on weight status.

My main interest is overweight and obesity, be it prevention and/or treatment.

What are the main barriers you encounter/experience when conducting research, or what information/skills do you lack to conduct high quality research?

Although important, new laws and regulations have made it difficult to get access to the data I will be using in my PhD-project. Using time to apply for access to data has taken a lot more time than anticipated and has been a considerable barrier.

What could help you as a student/ECR to further develop/grow in your current position?

Taking relevant courses, presenting work, having discussions with researchers, going to conferences, and being challenged by others within my field. Furthermore, having a network to share challenges and discuss is something I find fruitful.

What do you think will be the next most important development in the nutrition and/or physical activity field? 

I believe facilitating healthy choices will be important in the future, both in regard to nutrition and physical activity. Additionally, I think we will see a lot of digital development making healthy choices easier.


You can get in touch with Bente Øvrebø via email [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @Benteov