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Health Promotion research alive and well!

Ray James Award winners Kristi Heesch and Michael Langdon reflect on their award and what it means to them and their work.


We were delighted and surprised that our work has been selected for the Ray James Memorial Award. This award recognises a journal article for excellence and innovation in health promotion research published during the previous year in the Health Promotion Journal of Australia. In light of all the journal articles published in the Journal throughout 2016, it is a great honour to have our article, ‘The usefulness of GPS bicycle tracking data for evaluating the impact of infrastructure change on cycling behaviour’, recognised for excellence and innovation in health promotion research.

The article described the use of a new technology for assessing cycling behaviour. New technologies and innovations appear regularly, and people often get very excited about the potential of them. But this excitement and enthusiasm must always be tempered with scientific inquiry, research and investigation to determine their practical application and usefulness. The awarded research aimed to provide a scientifically-rigorous examination of a new technology in order to judge – beyond its entertaining and amusing aspects -- its practicality and usefulness.

When reviewing the list of previous winners of this award, we noted common themes of: research and practice, practitioner’s experience, demonstration projects, assessments and interventions. It is an honour to have our research recognised alongside that of Professor Billie Giles-Corti. Her work in both research and practice in implementing and improving walkability is well known and respected by the Transport, Built Environment, and Health Promotion industries and researchers.

We would like to acknowledge Ray James for his work as a member of the research team that developed and revised health promotion competencies for health promotion practitioners. The common themes of his professional work included: innovation, willingness to risk trialling new approaches, mentoring early-career professionals, and helping others beyond the call of duty. Similarly, there are many people working in the emerging field of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transport and the Built Environment who have similar goals. In upcoming editions of the Journal we hope to bring you news of these initiatives and more evaluations of results. The prize money from the Award will be going entirely to our lead academic at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) to assist with the publication of new research. This research will be examining health-related outcomes of creating supportive environments in Queensland for active transport.

We would like to acknowledge all the other authors who submitted articles to the Journal during 2016, especially practitioners in non-health industries. For practitioners who do not work in a Public Health related organisation, finding time and obtaining approvals to write and publish an article is going beyond the call of duty. This article was made possible only with the support of an enthusiastic academic, who was willing to take industry research and turn it into an academic publication. This journal article is a testament to what can happen when proactive academics are willing to work with industry to share knowledge and learnings for the greater benefit of the industry.

This research project described in the awarded paper was a combined effort across multiple teams within the Queensland Department of Transport & Main Roads (TMR) and demonstrates what can happen when people can see potential in technology or a new innovation. In 2014 the TMR Engineering & Technology Branch (E&T) Traffic Engineering Team and the E&T Corporate GIS and Spatial Data Team in conjunction with the TMR Cycling Program undertook a project to ‘determine the feasibility of using bicycle GPS tracking data to improve the quality and reliability of bicycle participation data’. In 2016, the findings of the project were written into a scientific manuscript by Kristi Heesch, an academic in Queensland University of Technology’s School of Public Health and Social Work, and Michael Langdon, Senior Advisor (Cycling and Walking), Engineering & Technology Branch, TMR, and subsequently published in the Health Promotion Journal of Australia.

In 2017 this article was awarded the Ray James Memorial Award.

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