“My inspiration comes from people. I believe that everyone has a unique story and this is what makes social research both challenging and rewarding” ~ Renata Anibaldi
Ms Renata Anibaldi, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) candidate from Griffith Business School Marketing Department, and from Social Marketing @ Griffith. Ms Anibaldi is currently focussed on her PhD research which applies the concepts and methods of systems-thinking social marketing to develop, implement and evaluate interventions to promote the establishment of healthy eating behaviours in Australian Defence Force personnel (ADF).
1. What is your PhD about and what was the catalyst or inspiration for your interest in this field of research?
My research is exploring opportunities for social marketing to support healthy eating in personnel of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) within a systems-thinking framework. The catalyst for embarking on a PhD was the convergence of fortuitous circumstances. In the past I had done some research on healthy eating, obesity and overweight, and physical activity in the context of programs targeting individuals to make changes. With a background in psychology and social research methods, I was always very interested in understanding how behaviours are shaped within many contexts, and systems thinking is an action-based problem solving and decision-making framework. When the opportunity arose to actually work on eating behaviours and systems thinking together, I made the leap into the PhD journey.
2. What was the key issue or problem identified in your research degree thesis?
Healthy eating is important for everyone, but there are some groups in the population, such as the Australian Defence Force (ADF), for which good nutrition is essential, not only for health, but also for job performance. However, many ADF personnel do not consume a diet that is optimal for job performance or long-term health, and this is often apparent at the time of recruitment. Traditionally, healthy eating programs target the individual level to achieve change. However, individual change is often not achieved or is short-lived. Like many human behaviours, eating is complex and occurs in a system of individual, social, cultural and economic factors. The key issue, therefore, is delving into this complexity to identify environmental factors that influence eating behaviours, and devising ways to change those factors.
3. What are the most important questions or areas of investigation in your research degree and have any gaps been identified?
Understanding the specific ADF feeding system in which eating occurs is a fundamental area for investigation. This involves identifying the elements of this feeding system; understanding how these system elements operate to influence eating behaviours of ADF personnel; and identifying the opportunities and barriers for change. Based on the results of these investigations, social marketing initiatives will be developed that address specifically the opportunities and barriers for change in the system.
4. What is the ultimate aim or your ‘personal why’ for doing this research degree? What big picture are you hoping to eventually achieve?
It would be great to see the results of this research contribute some concrete improvements in eating behaviours among ADF personnel. By testing systems thinking in this population, I also hope to gain insights on the practical advantages and limitations of systems thinking for changing eating behaviours in other populations, and on the applicability of systems thinking to other areas of social importance.
5. Are you currently working on any funded research and if yes, what is the project about and what is your involvement/tasks?
I am currently involved in a funded research project – ‘Measuring cost-effectiveness and identifying key barriers and enablers of lasting behavioural change in the cane industry’ (2018). The primary purpose of this research is to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of past and current government investments in projects supporting practice and land use changes in the cane farming industry in Queensland. The study is utilising a mixed methods approach including aspects of systems thinking and the systematic review of literature to achieve a deep understanding of the behavioural and contextual factors that influence project engagement and practice change outcomes in this complex area.
6. Why did you choose Griffith University for your research degree?
Prior to commencing my PhD, I had worked in several separate stints and in different roles at Griffith University and had always enjoyed the work and the people. A few years ago, I was lucky to join Social Marketing @ Griffith centre in the Griffith Business school and work full-time as a research assistant. Loving the centre and its work, and the vibrancy and innovation of Griffith University, the choice to do a PhD at Griffith was an easy one and I am really glad I did.