Student & ECR spotlights – Meet Lisan Hidding, a PhD student using concept mapping & photo voice methods with children to gain insights on their physical activity behaviour

Please tell us about your career pathway to date.  

In 2013 I completed my BSc in Nutrition and Dietetics at the Hanze University of Applied Sciences. Thereafter, I started my MSc in Health Sciences at the VU University on the topic Prevention and Public Health, which I finished in 2015. Since then I am working at the VU University Medical Center as a PhD student. The aim of my PhD project is to develop a measurement tool for assessing physical activity in children, in collaboration with the children themselves by means of the concept mapping and photo voice methods. This project is a collaboration with the Public Health Service of Amsterdam. In addition to my PhD, I also do research on the perspectives of adolescents concerning the activity friendliness of their environment, and I am involved in a project regarding burn outs in high school students. In 2016, I attended the Annual ISBNPA meeting in Cape Town, where I was awarded with the ISBNPA Award for best student presentation. 

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? 

To enable children to grow up healthy it is really important to have knowledge on their health-related behaviours, including their physical activity. With the right knowledge on children’s physical activity behaviour, e.g. knowing what activities children do, and when and where children are active, effective physical activity enhancing interventions can be developed. Currently, no measurement tools exist that measure these aspects of children’s physical activity in a valid and reliable way. Therefore, the aim of my project is to develop such a tool. In addition, I believe that children are the experts of their own behaviour. Therefore, my research emphasized the perspectives of the children themselves. That is why my main interest in research is working together with children to find new insights, and because it is fun!


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

The main barrier I experience is the barrier of time. I find it really difficult that there are many interesting topics. When doing a PhD you need all your time to complete your project, hampering students’ freedom to be involved in other projects they are interested in.

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

In my opinion it would be really helpful to allow PhD students to do (small) additional projects next to their PhD on other topics that interest them. So, allowing PhD students to broaden their knowledge (on other topics or other methodologies) or work together with other research groups. 

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

In the physical activity field, I think the ability to measure physical activity more accurately using novel technology will improve in the coming years. Besides that, I hope that more studies will involve the target group within research regarding their own behaviour, by using Participative Action Research for example.

E-mail: [email protected], Twitter handle of Lisan’s department: @JenG_VUmc