||Dr Laura McGowan
Research Associate, Chartered Psychologist (CPsychol)
Public health; adult food choice/dietary behaviour; models of health behaviour; systematic reviews; health promotion; evaluating health promotion campaigns.
My PhD entitled 'The Development and Testing of a Social Cognitive Model of Adult Eating Behaviour' grew out of concerns regarding the current 'obesogenic' environment.
The wider health risks of obesity through secondary problems such as cancer, stroke, diabetes, CHD are well documented; however, attempts to intervene successfully to increase
healthy eating behaviour and food choice are limited. Predominant models of health behaviour used in the field account for approximately one third at best of the variance in
explaining adult eating behaviour, and an accumulation of knowledge in this area makes integration of findings into practice difficult. In order to address this issue and
intervene more successfully regarding healthy eating habits and food choices I conducted a systematic review of the cognitive factors influencing adult food choice in accordance
with the procedures set out by the Cochrane Collaboration. This was followed by a pilot survey examining food choice in adults along with a food frequency measure which then
allowed for the development of a new, comprehensive model of healthy eating behaviour in adults. In addition to my interests in eating behaviour and food choice, I have worked
on varied research projects during my time with the Public Health Agency for Northern Ireland spanning smoking, nutrition, illicit drug use, sexual health, mental health and
My current area of interest within the HBRC is healthy eating in children where I am working on the POPPETS Study. The first part of the study involved a large-scale community
survey to assess the family environment correlates of healthy dietary choices in preschool children (including parental nutrition knowledge, feeding practices, social norms,
availability of foods, meal patterns and snacking rules). The next stage of this project now involves developing an intervention to create healthy habits within families. The
intervention will determine if healthful family dietary behaviours can be created and established using a simple 'habit formation' model. The intervention uses findings from
the POPPETS survey to supplement the habit formation guidance, with strategies that parents can use within the home environment to help implement new habits. Ultimately this
research will be used to create a disseminable intervention that health professionals can be trained to deliver.
Laura qualified with a BSc (Hons) Psychology (1:1) in 2004 and went on to undertake a PhD in Psychology which she was awarded in 2008. Qualifying as a chartered psychologist in
early 2009 as a full member of the Division for Teachers and Researchers within the British Psychological Society, she worked in a research role in a health promotion setting
until joining the Health Behaviour Research Centre in June 2009. She recently gained the Stage 1 Qualification in Health Psychology (from the British Psychological Society) via
independent study and is in the process of working towards the Stage 2 Qualification in Health Psychology.
2010 Qualification in Health Psychology (Stage 1), British Psychological Society
2009 Chartered psychologist, British Psychological Society
2008 PhD Psychology, Queen's University Belfast
2004 BSc (Honours) Psychology, Queen's University Belfast
Graduate member of the British Psychological Society (BPS) and full member of the Division for Teachers and Researchers; and member of the Northern Ireland branch (NIBPS).
2007 - 2009: Research Officer for the Public Health Agency (formerly the Health Promotion Agency for Northern Ireland).
- Sweetman C, McGowan L, Croker H, Cooke L. Characteristics of family mealtimes affecting children's vegetable consumption and liking. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2010 (submitted)
- McGowan, L., & Dempster, M (2009) Healthy eating in adults: A systematic review of the cognitive factors influencing food choice. (In preparation)
- McGowan, L., & Dempster, M (2009) The pitfalls of database literature searching: Key considerations for a more efficient way forward. (In preparation)
This page last modified 25 May, 2010 by Mark Livermore
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Postal address: Health Behaviour Research Centre, Department of Epidemiology & Public Health,
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