Student & ECR Spotlight – Emma Pollock is a PhD student evaluating the wide-ranging benefits of a world-first father-daughter physical activity program

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

I graduated from the University of Newcastle with a Bachelor of Teaching (secondary) / Bachelor of PD/H/PE in 2009 and began teaching Health and Physical Education in local secondary schools. In 2014, I started work at the Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition, University of Newcastle, as a Research Assistant to Professor Philip Morgan and Professor David Lubans. This led me to undertake a PhD on the Dads And Daughters Exercising and Empowered program under the supervision of Professor Philip Morgan. Currently, I am writing up my thesis and also teaching Health and Physical Education to student teachers at the university.


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?

Research interest: My main goals as a researcher are to: improve girls’ opportunities to be physically active and participate in sport and; investigate ways to enhance girls’ social emotional well-being.


Current research: The overall aim of my current research is to present an evidence-based approach for optimising physical and psychological health of girls, which will have important implications for future research on girls’ wellbeing.


Most family-based physical activity interventions targeting girls have been only modestly successful and failed to engage fathers. Moreover, physical activity programs on family functioning and psychosocial outcomes are rarely measured. As such, the ‘Dads And Daughters Exercising and Empowered’ program was the first physical activity program internationally to explicitly target fathers as an agent for change to improve their daughters’ physical activity levels, sport skill proficiency and social emotional well-being. Using a mixed methods approach, my research aims to: (1) explore the wide-ranging social and emotional and family benefits of the program and, (2) provide new insights into potential mechanisms of these benefits.


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

Recently, I have experienced some challenges when rolling out family-based physical activity programs in different communities. Notably, I have found that it is challenging to manage and address the unique set of barriers that arise within each new setting. For example: availability of trained facilitators to deliver the program, cost as a barrier to participation, quality of the program being delivered. However, as a result of these challenges, I have learnt that researchers must be open to: adapt the program to suit each setting, communicate with key stakeholders, and continually reflect on the facilitators and barriers that help or hinder effective implementation of the program.


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

I continually strive to develop my knowledge and research skills and am always looking for new professional development opportunities (e.g., workshops/webinars that focus on writing and project management skills, different research methods, networking and collaboration). I’m also seeking to collaborate and network with other researchers, policy developers and educators who have expertise in developing interventions to improve children’s physical activity levels and well-being.


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

I believe that there will be a continued and increased focus on translating evidence-based programs into the real-world. In particular, more attention will be directed at gaining a deeper understanding of the facilitators and barriers involved in rolling out interventions at scale, and pinpointing effective strategies to address such barriers. This will assist in the long-term sustainability of programs, which has the potential for wider implications for public health.




You can get in touch with Emma via email: [email protected] or follow her on Twitter: @empollock04