Dr Hattie Wright - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Staff profile

Dr Hattie Wright

PhD (Nutrition) N-W(S.Af.), MSc(Diet) N-W(S.Af.), BSc(Hons) (Nutrition) N-W(S.Af.), BSc(Diet) N-W(S.Af.), GD(Diet) Pret.

  • Senior Lecturer, Nutrition and Dietetics
Email
Telephone
+61 7 5459 4775
Office location
T3.27
Campus
Sunshine Coast
Dr Hattie Wright

Hattie Wright is a senior lecturer in Nutrition and Dietetics within the School of Health and Behavioural Sciences. Prior to her current appointment she held academic positions at the North-West University, South Africa (2000-2013) and the Centre of Excellence for Nutrition, South Africa (2003-2013). She is currently a visiting research fellow at the Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service and member of the Cluster for Health Improvement research at USC.

Hattie is an accredited practising (APD) dietitian with a particular interest in the role of diet in health outcomes. She marvels in how slight changes in dietary intake can have large effects on overall health. She always had a specific interest in the synergistic role of diet and exercise in human health. This fuelled her initial research focus in the area of women’s health with specific attention to the dual role of diet and exercise on musculoskeletal health, reproductive function and disordered eating behaviour across the premenopausal and postmenopausal lifespan of active and sedentary women.

She also applied her expertise in dietary methodology and body composition assessment to investigate the role of diet in chronic disease management with a specific focus on healthy ageing.

Hattie is a member of the Dietitians Australia association, the Nutrition Interest group of the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia, the Prevention Community of Practice working group of the Dietitians and Nutritionists Strategic Coalition in Queensland, the Queensland Allied Health Translating Research Into Practice Showcase and Recognition working group, national Dietetic Educators Community of Practice group, and the Sunshine Coast Health Institute (SCHI) Education Advisory group. Hattie chair the SCHI workforce and career development pathways working group and is currently the Vice-President of the Professionals in Nutrition for Exercise and Sport (PINES) international sports nutrition organisation.

Globally we have an ageing population and with that there is a concomitant increase in chronic disease. Chronic disease can be debilitating with an immense impact on older adults, their families, carers as well as the health care system with accompanying health care costs. Hattie’s research is aimed at reducing the burden on the health care system through a patient-centred focus. She is particularly interested in the improvement of the health-related quality of life of people through lifestyle behaviour change. Adhering to a healthy diet is often overlooked as a powerful strategy to improve physical function, reduce disease progression, and support chronic disease management which is ultimately associated with a better quality of life.

Specifically, she studies the role of dietary patterns in disease management using both a priori and posteriori methods. Hattie use theory, such as the Health Belief Model, to make sense of the determinants of people’s food choice to better understand drivers of dietary adherence. Having a sound understanding of what supports people to follow healthy diets is invaluable to health professionals and patients alike. Health professionals can tailor their nutrition education and interventions to be more patient-centred which can support patients to change their behaviour. Improved adherence to a healthy diet in turn supports disease management, improves physical function and therefore health-related quality of life.

She has expertise in both quantitative and qualitative research methods which helps her to gain a deeper and rich understanding of factors influencing adherence to healthy lifestyle behaviours, particularly diet and exercise. Clinical outcomes relating to physical function namely musculoskeletal health including body composition changes, bone health and prevalence of sarcopenia; as well as nutritional status namely malnutrition risk and cardiometabolic markers forms part of her research focus.

Current projects focus on slowing down chronic kidney disease progression through improved nutrition care. Preventing severe CKD can improve a person’s health related quality of life and lower overall health care costs by delaying or avoiding dialysis. Having an understanding of the current dietary characteristics of people with early CKD and factors that influence their adherence to dietary recommendations can be used to translate into future nutrition education programs. This is particularly important in the Health Service I’m working with due to limited dietetic services in the renal department. Since patients with early CKD often present with multiple comorbidities such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes mellitus, there is potential for this research to have broader application.

Upcoming projects will explore the role of diet and exercise throughout and after cancer treatment in older adults with haematological cancer. This is a cancer type that has not received much attention in allied health research, yet it is more prevalent with ageing. These individuals are at increased risk of loss of independence due to reduced physical function and increased frailty as a result of the triple burden of the disease itself, treatment side-effects, and the natural ageing process. Future projects will explore the role of diet and exercise during and after treatment as non-pharmacological treatment strategies to improve physical function, clinical outcomes and health-related quality of life.

As a teacher Hattie focus her scholarship in teaching and learning on improving the employability of future dietitians through the use of experiential learning with a specific focus on simulation-base learning. Past projects included the use of online serious games to develop clinical reasoning skills at an undergraduate level in the delivery of nutrition care, and building confidence in the delivery of nutrition care using standardised patients in an acute care setting. Future projects are looking into the development of communication skills of students in a variety of settings, including face to face and telehealth.

Supervision

Dr Wright is currently supervising 2 Honours students, 2 Master students and 2 Doctoral students.

Projects are currently being offered by Dr Wright across topics relating to chronic disease management through diet and/or exercise.

Expressions of interest are welcome from prospective Honours, Masters, PhD and Postdoctoral candidates.

Current research projects include:
  1. Clinical reasoning skills and self-confidence in the nutrition care process of dietetic students
  2. Renal function, cardiovascular health and the Mediterranean diet in Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) patients
  3. Adherence to low sodium diet of CKD patients
  4. Malnutrition risk of Australian adults with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome
  5. Health literacy, nutrition knowledge and wellbeing in caregivers of patients with CKD
Current research grants
Project Name Diet and Chronic Kidney disease

Investigator/s

Dr H Wright, Dr E Swanepoel, Dr N Gray, Ms H Kickbusch

Funding body

SCHHS Wishlist Research grant, AS $5825

Year(s) of operation

November 2018 – November 2020

Focus statement

As principal investigator, I work with Dr Nicholas Gray, Nephrologist at SCUH on this project. Funding is managed through USC.

Project Name

Game-based learning: an authentic approach to enhance clinical reasoning skills in student dietitians

Investigator/s

Dr H Wright, U Terton, K Starks, T Ashford, J Tweedie, G Smyth

Funding body

C-SALT Enhancement grant USC, AS$ 19 955

Year(s) of operation

15 Feb 2016 – 13 August 2018

Focus statement

An online simulation was developed for dietetic students to orientate them to the hospital setting as well as improve clinical reasoning skills in the nutrition care process.

Research areas

  • The role of diet quality in physical function, strength and health-related quality of life in older adults with chronic disease.
  • The effect of nutrition interventions on musculoskeletal health of older adults with chronic disease.
  • The role of behaviour change interventions for effective self-management of chronic disease.
  • The role of diet in reducing disease risk and progression of chronic disease.
  • The effect of diet and exercise in improving body composition, strength and symptom management in adults with chronic disease.

Teaching areas

  • Medical Nutrition Therapy
  • Counselling and communication skills
  • Nutrition and Dietetic skills

Dr Wright’s specialist areas of knowledge include nutrition therapy for people with chronic diseases of lifestyle, behaviour change, bone health, health-related quality of life and diet quality.

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