The Early Care and Education (ECE) Special Interest Group serves to support existing ECE researchers and researchers with emerging interests in physical activity, sedentary behaviors, sleep and nutrition during the early childhood period.

The focus of this SIG is young children’s engagement in out of home child care whether infant care, nursery school, preschool, kindergarten, child care centers, or family childcare home providers.


The ECE SIG will serve as a source of communication, information sharing, and collaboration among researchers whose goals are to improve the young child’s health, growth and development through healthy eating, regular physical activity, adequate sleep and minimizing sedentary behaviors.

SIG Leadership team


Dr Penny Love is an Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian and senior academic within the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition, Deakin University. Her research focuses on the translation, implementation and sustainability of early childhood nutrition intervention at scale to inform the identification of key leverage points within health and education service delivery systems. To contact or read more about Penny’s research, please use the following links: [email protected] | University Staff ProfileGoogle Scholar.

Dr Rachel Jones is an Associate Professor at the School of Education, University of Wollongong. She is passionate about improving the quality of physical activity learning experiences in early childhood education settings. Her research specifically focuses on the impact of high-quality professional learning and development for early childhood educators. To contact or read more about Rachel’s research, please use the following links: [email protected] | University Staff Profile | Google Scholar.


Dr Avril Johnstone is a Research Associate at the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow. She is a public health researcher with methodological expertise in developing and evaluating complex interventions and systematic literature reviews. Avril’s longstanding professional and research interests focus on exploring the role of active outdoor play, physical activity and nature on reducing childhood health inequalities. To contact or read more about Avril’s research, please use the following links:  [email protected]University Staff Profile | Google Scholar. 

Dr. Brianne Bruijns is a Post-Doctoral Associate in the Child Health and Physical Activity Lab at Western University and the Report Card Project Manager for ParticipACTION, a physical activity non-profit in Canada. She has expertise in researching movement behaviours in the early years, with a specific interest in the role of early childhood education and caregiver-child interactions in promoting healthy physical activity among young children. At ParticipACTION, Brianne manages the Report Card on Physical Activity for Children & Youth, and for Adults, knowledge products which serve as the most comprehensive assessments of physical activity among people living in Canada. To contact or read more about Brianne’s research, please use the following links: [email protected] | University Staff Profile | Google Scholar.

Dr. Leigh Vanderloo’s area of research focuses on young children’s physical activity levels and sedentary time. Her research interests also extend to knowledge translation and implementation science. Currently, Leigh is working as the Scientific Director at ParticipACTION, a physical activity non-profit organization in Canada, and recently completed her Research Fellowship at SickKids Hospital in Toronto, where her research examined the association between physical activity and screen use and health outcomes in young children. When she’s not working, Leigh loves spending time outdoors hiking, camping, and playing tennis. To contact or read more about Leigh’s research, please use the following links: [email protected]|Google Scholar.  

Dr Anne Martin is a Research Fellow at the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow. She is a Public Health Scientist with mixed-methods expertise in the field of obesity prevention, and physical activity, sleep and mental health promotion. Anne leads work on nature-based play and learning in early childhood education and care settings, and is experienced in participatory and whole-system approaches to intervention development and evaluation. To contact or read more about Anne’s research, please use the following links: [email protected] University staff profile | Google scholar.

Dr Alice Grady is a Heart Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Newcastle, and a Program Manager at Hunter New England Population Health. Her research aims to prevent chronic disease by putting robust evidence into practice within healthcare and community settings, including early childhood education and care. Alice manages an integrated research–practice team to deliver and evaluate evidence-based healthy eating and physical activity interventions to centre-based and family day care early childhood education and care services. She has a particular interest in using innovative technologies, such as web-based programs, to put evidence into practice in a way that is effective, sustainable and can be scaled up to the benefit of the population. To contact or read more about Alice’s research, please use the following links: [email protected] |University Staff Profile |‪Google Scholar.

Audrey Elford submitted her thesis titled “Towards sustainable healthy food provision in Early Childhood Education settings” at the end of 2023.  She is currently working as a research fellow for Deakin University, Australia on a number of projects related to food provision in early childhood education settings, sustainable healthy food systems and measuring tools for environmental sustainability and food provision , including research on food waste.  She has been involved in a systematic review and scoping reviews, and also has an interest in co-design.  To contact or read more about Audrey’s research please use the following links: [email protected]|University Staff Profile |‪Google Scholar.

Divya Patel is a recent PhD from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences, USA. She is a behavioral researcher with interest in evaluating mealtime influence during early childhood. Divya has a strong interest in implementation science and using technology in public health research to bridge the gap between research and target communities. Outside of research, Divya has a PhD blog out of her passion to help fellow PhD students and ECRs. To contact or read more about Divya’s research, please use the following links: [email protected] | Google Scholar.

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