Semester One 2016

Winner: Thea Werkhoven

Paper title: The necessity of addressing the nutrition knowledge and health related attitudes held by pre-service professionals.

Thea Werkhoven is finalising her doctorate in the field of youth obesity this year, supervised by Dr Wayne Cotton and Dr Dean Dudley, Macquarie University. Her thesis is titled "Using a pedagogical intervention to modify the nutrition knowledge, degree of weight bias and obesity awareness held by pre-service professionals".

Thea's research delves into the nutrition knowledge and weight bias that pre-service professionals possess, known to be problematic amongst health professionals such as educators and allied health physicians. It was a passion for education and professional knowledge as a qualified dietitian and nutritionist that led Thea to this topic, driving her to develop and test a pedagogical program aimed at increasing nutrition knowledge, decreasing weight bias and improving awareness of obesity amongst higher education students. Results from her study show that it is possible to significantly improve nutrition knowledge and decrease levels of weight bias simultaneously by educating students on health from a holistic perspective, using technology in the classroom as a teaching aide.

Since 2011 Thea has also lectured and tutored undergraduate health subjects in the Sydney School of Education and Social Work at the University. She is responsible for the design and delivery of the undergraduate elective "Diet and Nutrition for Health and Sport", which continues to attract students from a wide range of faculties annually. Offered during Summer School and in Semesters 1 and 2 annually, the elective offers students with all levels of scientific knowledge the opportunity to learn about food composition and how to apply nutrition literacy to real life.

Outside of postgraduate study, the things that keep Thea happy include exploring offroad trails in the Blue Mountains, baking and consistently failing to win at pub trivia nights with her fellow study group members.