First cotutelle to study cross-cultural obesity prevention

(from left) Professor Jeri Kroll, Carol Anne Hartwick and Dr Nicole Beaumont

A local childhood obesity prevention program originally developed in France will be the focus of a new study by Flinders University’s first-ever cotutelle student, Carol Anne Hartwick.

As part of her PhD, Ms Hartwick will examine how the French scheme EPODE, an acronym translating to “Together Let’s Prevent Childhood Obesity”, has been introduced in South Australia under the government-funded Obesity Prevention and Lifestyle (OPAL) program.

Her research is being carried out between Flinders and her home institution, Paris Déscartes Sorbonne, under Flinders University’s new cotutelle agreement – a collaborative study exchange that allows doctoral degree students to live and learn abroad.

The program, facilitated by Dean of Graduate Research Professor Jeri Kroll and the Office of Graduate Research, will enable Flinders PhD candidates to undertake a portion of their research at home and a portion at a partnering overseas institution, thereby earning a doctorate from both.

Likewise, international students enrolled in this degree will have the opportunity to study at Flinders University and they too will be awarded a degree by both their home and host institution.

Ms Hartwick’s PhD, A cultural evaluation of healthy weight programmes in France and Australia, will be supervised in Australia by Professor John Coveney and in France by Professor Roger Sue.

The focus of her project, Ms Hartwick said, was to compare how the implementation of the OPAL scheme, which was introduced to SA in 2009 and is based on the same methodology as the French EPODE program, differed between the two cultures.

“The French program is very much focused on teaching children about food pleasure, how to grow fruit and veggies and the social aspect of eating,” Ms Hartwick said.

“In France they tend to focus a lot on taste and the social importance of food as their way of preventing obesity whereas in Australia it seems to be much more about the science behind food and nutrition,” she said.

“Therefore, I’m really interested to find out how the EPODE program is transferred from a culture where food is pleasure to a culture where food is functional.”

Ms Hartwick, who grew up in Canada and has lived in Paris for the past five years, said she was “extremely grateful” to Professor Kroll, Professor Coveney, Professor David Day (Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research) and Dr Nicole Beaumont (Executive Officer to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research) for making her dream a reality.

“It’s always been my dream to compare the French food culture to Anglo-Saxon food culture in terms of education so for me this is a dream come true.

“Everyone here at Flinders is so friendly and I’ve felt so welcomed, but I’m particularly grateful to Jeri, John and Nicole for giving me this opportunity.”

The concept of a cotutelle, meaning co-tutoring, was first introduced to Australia in 1997 after the French Government developed a framework for the joint supervision of doctoral candidates between French universities and institutions across the world.

At Flinders, each cotutelle collaboration will take place under a reciprocal agreement between institutions, with the candidate paying tuition fees at their primary university for the duration of their candidature and exempt from fees at the partner university.

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