Student & ECR Spotlight – Hanne Hennig Havdal is exploring how adolescents’ perceive their neighbourhood to influence their energy balanced related behaviour

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

I am trained in public health nutrition from Oslo Metropolitan University and worked for almost ten years before starting my PhD. My first job was at the Norwegian Dairy Federation as a public health nutritionist, and then at Animalia – Meat and Poultry Research Centre. Working in the food industry, I often felt a longing to work more directly with public health nutrition and perform research in this field. 

Socioeconomic differences as a topic have been a major part of my education in public health nutrition and a topic that has always interested me in its unfairness. I was therefore fortunate to start my PhD in October 2018 as a member of the TACKLE project; Tackling socioeconomic differences in weight development among youth: assessing trends, mechanisms and potential interventions. I am part of the Public Health Nutrition group at the Department of Nutrition at the University of Oslo, Norway. 


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?

I am one of three PhD students at the TACKLE project, and my work is mainly qualitative. I have conducted focus group interviews with adolescents and single interviews with parents in three different socioeconomic neighbourhoods in Oslo, to explore if and how adolescents perceive their social and physical environment to influence their energy balanced related behaviour. 

My qualitative analysis has resulted in inputs for a questionnaire that will be used in a cross-sectional study. This will be conducted in the spring of 2020, exploring the food and activity environments effects on lifestyle behaviours and body weight among adolescents in Oslo. 


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

Being part of the Faculty of Medicine, with its long tradition of quantitative research, I occasionally miss working with several colleagues or other PhD students who use a qualitative approach. Someone to discuss all the “stupid” questions one have as a PhD student and sharing thoughts, experiences and literature. 


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

Being part of a research project with several PhD students and colleagues, is in my opinion, a substantial advantage as a PhD student, as it provides me with the opportunity to discuss, learn and experience different aspects of a research project. On the other hand, I am the only one conducting qualitative research in the project. To have a network of others, both PhD students and researchers/professors, mainly doing qualitative research in the field of public health nutrition would be exciting and help me grow as a researcher.


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

Sustainability, in general, is a hot and important topic, and I think this will become even more essential and integrated into research projects. How we will be able to feed a growing population in a healthy, sustainable and environmentally friendly way is a field I think will grow further and be essential questions. 

I furthermore think participatory research and more advanced use of big data and system approach/method will continue to increase and will able the public health field to perform innovating research and achieve new insights.



You can reach Hanne on email at [email protected] or Twitter @hannehennig