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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.

Research interests

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 learning disabilities.

Current Research
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

Professional Memberships
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).

  1. McGowan, L., Cooke, LJ., Gardner, B., Beeken, R., Croker., Wardle, J. (2013) Healthy feeding habits: efficacy results from a cluster-randomized, controlled exploratory trial of a novel, habit-based intervention with parents. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (in press). Impact factor: 6.5
  2. Wahlich, C., Gardner, B., & McGowan, L. (2013). How, when and why do young women use nutrition information on food labels? A qualitative analysis. Psychology and Health, 28 (2), 202-216. doi:10.1080/08870446.2012.716439 Impact factor: 1.95
  3. McGowan, L., Croker, H., Wardle, J., & Cooke, L. J. (2012). Environmental and individual determinants of core and non-core food and drink intake in preschool-aged children in the United Kingdom. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 66 (3), 322-328. doi:10.1038/ejcn.2011.224 Impact factor: 2.756
  4. Lally, P., Cooke, L., McGowan, L., Croker, H., Bartle, N., & Wardle, J. (2012). Parents' misperceptions of social norms for pre-school children's snacking behaviour. Public Health Nutrition, 15 (9), 1678-1682. doi:10.1017/S1368980012000328 Impact factor: 2.250
  5. Sweetman, C., McGowan, L., Croker, H., & Cooke, L. (2011). Characteristics of family mealtimes affecting children's vegetable consumption and liking. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 111 (2), 269-273. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2010.10.050 Impact factor: 3.797
  6. McGowan, L., Cooke, L. J., Croker, H., Wardle, J., & Gardner, B. (2012). Habit-formation as a novel theoretical framework for dietary change in preschoolers. Psychology & Health, 27, 89.
  7. Davies, A., Panzer, M., Alexandrova, A., Barker, M., Bellardita, L., Boehmer, S., et al. CREATE 2005 workshop facilitators. (2006). How to CREATE interventions: A comprehensive checklist to guide the development of interventions. Psychology & Health, 21, 37.
McGowan, L. UCLH Biomedical Research Centre and NIHR. Patient and Public Involvement Bursary Fund October 2013: £2000 (December 2013-August 2014) “Facilitating a novel method of PPI in obesity research: Improving upon past successes.” Principal Investigator

This page last modified 22 Nov, 2013 by Mark Livermore

Laura Mcgowan

+44 (0)20 7679 1732
Internal: x41732
+44 (0)20 7679 8354
Email: laura.mcgowan@ucl.ac.uk

Postal address: Health Behaviour Research Centre, Department of Epidemiology & Public Health,
UCL, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT, UK

Office: Room 209,
1-19 Torrington Place,

University College London- Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT - Telephone: +44 (0)20 7679 1720 - © 2012 UCL

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