Children’s salt and sugar intakes and exposure to ‘kids foods’ in New Zealand

Project Code: 10383437

Faculty: Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences

Department: Epidemiology & Biostatistics

Main Supervisor: Dr Helen Eyles

Principal investigator: Cliona Ni Mhurchu

Application open date: 17 Jul 2017

Application deadline:

Enrolment information: NZ Citizens, NZ Permanent Residents, International


Centre of Research Excellence in Reducing Salt Intake Using Food Policy Interventions - PhD Scholarship Opportunity

The Centres of Research Excellence (CRE) scheme is an Australian National Health and Medical Research Council scheme providing support for teams of researchers to pursue collaborative research and develop capacity in clinical, population health, and health services research. Funds have been secured under this scheme for a CRE in Reducing Salt Intake Using Food Policy Interventions that includes research teams at the George Institute for Global Health in Sydney, Deakin University in Melbourne, and the University of Auckland in New Zealand. A fulltime PhD scholarship is now available for study at the University of Auckland.  The PhD project will sit within a wider programme of collaborative research to address the design, implementation, evaluation, and roll out of real-world food policy interventions targeting salt reduction. 


Children’s salt and sugar intakes and exposure to ‘kids foods’ in New Zealand

CRE research team:

Dr Helen Eyles, Prof Cliona Ni Mhurchu, Prof Boyd Swinburn (University of Auckland)

Prof Bruce Neal (University of Sydney)


A full-time PhD scholarship is available to undertake research within the framework of the Salt Reduction CRE.

Research areas:

Public health, nutrition, children’s health, obesity, salt, sugar, dietary surveys


Little is known about the dietary intakes of New Zealand children, with the most recent Children’s Nutrition Survey undertaken in 2002.  Food environments have changed substantially over the past 15 years with an increase in the availability of ‘kids foods’ and an environment which encourages overconsumption.  Salt and sugar are nutrients of particular concern given New Zealand’s commitment to reduce population sodium intake by a relative 30% by 2025, and increasing evidence for the relationship between sugar intakes and health. The aim of this project is to explore children’s exposure to and intakes of salt, sugar, and ‘kids foods’ in New Zealand.  Findings from this research could inform salt reduction interventions and policies.

What we are looking for in a successful applicant


Applicants should hold a degree relevant to one of the above listed research areas and/or have related professional experience. All applicants must be New Zealand citizens or permanent residents and have either an exceptional academic track record or a proven track record of research productivity. Scholarship applicants will be required to enrol in a full-time Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree through the University of Auckland. Successful applicants will be supervised by at least one member of the project research team.


The research objectives making up this PhD project will be determined by the student, but will likely include use of several existing data sources and protocols e.g. the NutriSales database, household economic surveys, and INFORMAS data and protocols.  Areas of particular interest include:

  • A systematic review of children’s sodium intakes and dietary food sources of sodium and potassium globally
  • Development of a framework to identify and select the best existing data sources to assess children’s dietary intakes of sodium, sugar, and ‘kids foods’ in New Zealand.  Using the framework evaluate the availability and healthiness of ‘kids foods’ in different settings relevant to New Zealand children, including supermarkets, fast food restaurants, schools, and hospitals.  Cost, labelling, and promotion of these foods may also be assessed.
  • An evaluation of the contribution of ‘kids foods’ to dietary intakes and the nutritional quality of ‘kids foods’ compared with similar ‘adult foods’.
  • A qualitative study to explore knowledge, attitudes, behaviours, and influences on children’s food intakes and food environments, types of foods perceived as ‘healthy’ and ‘less healthy’, and children’s and parents attitudes to ‘kids foods’
  • A 24-hr urinary sodium excretion and hair biomarker survey to measure the sodium, potassium, and sugar intakes of New Zealand school children and their dietary sources of these nutrients.  Using survey data, compare estimated sodium, potassium, and sugar intakes from dietary assessment and clinical measures and undertake a formal validation study.
Other information

Amount awarded:

The scholarship is valued at NZ$27,500 (tax free) per year. Tuition fees will also be covered. The scholarship will be tenable for one year in the first instance, but is renewable for a second and a third year subject to satisfactory progress.

Application guide:

Further information can be obtained from Dr Helen Eyles (Phone: (09) 923 4658; Email: Applications should be sent direct to Dr Eyles at the above address and should include curriculum vitae, academic transcripts, and the names and contact details of at least two referees.

Closing date:

Friday 1st September 2017

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