Dr Sze Lin (Serene) Yoong

The University of Newcastle
Research Field: Medical research

The implementation of nutrition guidelines into childcare centres is recommended internationally as a strategy to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity by facilitating translation of best-practice evidence into practice. Research however, suggests that childcare centres do not implement policies and practices consistent with such guidelines. Childcare staff report a range of knowledge, skill, motivation and resource barriers. Dr Yoong’s research aims to identify cost-effective and scalable strategies to help childcare services implement evidence-based guidelines to improve child nutrition.

Her approach involves the systematic identification of barriers and enablers to guideline implementation using theoretical frameworks, intervention mapping to identify specific behaviour change strategies, and active partnership with stakeholders to ensure acceptability of intervention approaches. She has undertaken eight large scale randomised controlled trials using novel intervention methods such as online, apps and social media strategies. Findings from these trials have improved the provision of healthier foods in line with nutrition guidelines in 400 childcare centres in the Hunter New England area and a corresponding improvement in child diet. Further, this research has resulted in the inclusion of a cooks training program as part of the state-wide ‘Munch & Move program’ to support healthy eating in childcare centres.