Student & ECR Spotlight – Dr Kathryn Reilly highlights the need to improve implementation of nutrition guidelines in community settings

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

I graduated from the University of Newcastle, NSW Australia, as a Dietitian in 1995 and worked in numerous roles including private practice. Coming back after having 3 children I started working as a Project Officer in the Population Health unit within Hunter New England Local Health District in NSW, where my role was to support schools’ implementation of healthy eating and physical activity policies and programs. I soon took on a PhD which focused on developing a cost effective and scalable level of support for school healthy eating policies. I was awarded my PhD in November 2018 and have since held the role of Nutrition Program Manager within the same health service. Hunter New England Population Health has a research practice partnership with the University of Newcastle which gives us the unique opportunity to embed research within routine service delivery in various community settings.


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? 

Currently I am leading the development of a secondary school nutrition program aimed at increasing implementation of a school-based healthy eating policy and improving the dietary intake of adolescents. I am also responsible for implementation support across the Hunter New England region of the NSW Health Facility Food and Drink Framework. My research interests are in optimizing the public health benefits of nutrition guidelines and policies through the identification of strategies to improve long term implementation of such in community settings.


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

One of the main barriers or time consuming factors that I regularly come across in my research in the schools setting is the recruitment process. I have learnt that it is important to ensure you have adequate time allocated to the recruitment of participants that will not eat into dedicated intervention delivery time. Additionally, I think it is important in settings such as schools, who have many competing demands, to acknowledge that it takes time to gain buy-in and commitment from participants, and this should be factored into your program timeline.


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

One of the greatest opportunities I have had thus far was a research travel grant which allowed me to visit leading researchers in my field and spend time at their institution. It gave me the opportunity to meet researchers I otherwise may not get to engage with and to start to develop collaborations independently of my supervisors.


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

I believe a large focus will be on gaining a better understanding of the barriers and facilitators of successful implementation of nutrition and physical activity programs. Identifying how implementation strategies exert their effects (mechanism) represents a critical evidence-base to advance the science of implementation for the field and to guide the development of strategies to optimise both nutrition and physical activity guideline implementation.



You can get in touch with Kathryn via email [email protected] or on Twitter @KathrynLReilly