HDR Scholarship - Chronic health problems: people with obesity and intellectual disability

Applications now open. A PhD scholarship is available to initiate and conduct research on the topic 'Chronic health problems: people with obesity and intellectual disability'.

Project Supervisor

Additional Supervision


Melbourne Burwood Campus

Research topic

Research, mainly conducted in the US and UK in the early and mid-2000s, indicates that adults with intellectual disability are more likely to be overweight and obese than the general population with obesity prevalence ranging from 17.6% to 38.3% for the intellectually disabled population compared to 11.8%-28% for the general population (Hsieh, Rimmer & Heller, 2014; Koritsas & Iacono, 2016). These higher rates of obesity are attributed to a range of factors including low levels of physical activity, sedentary lifestyles, high fat and high sugar diets, and in some cases are associated with diagnosis (e.g., Down syndrome). Those with less severe levels of intellectual disability and females were more likely to be obese than males as were those of either gender living independently, in their family homes, or in less supervised accommodation (Stancliffe et al., 2011). Obesity is known to cause chronic health conditions such as coronary heart disease, Type II diabetes, and some forms of cancer. There is limited recent Australian research focused on obesity of people with intellectual disability; the intersection with physical activity; and accommodation setting (Stancliffe et al., 2011).

People with intellectual disability are living longer due to better health care, lifestyle and environmental conditions, with mortality rates approaching that of the general population. Little is known about how increased age relates to healthy ageing for this population. Given the links between obesity and chronic health conditions, increased levels of obesity among adults with intellectual disability are likely to result in a high prevalence of chronic health conditions impacting on healthy ageing and meaning increased use of health services. Industry partner, Impact Obesity has partnered with the Disability and Inclusion team and Institute for Health Transformation at Deakin University to co-fund a PhD scholarship to investigate obesity for people with intellectual disability in Australia.

Project aim

The project aims are currently broad and will be refined in consultation with the successful PhD candidate. The project may include investigating the current evidence on the rates, impacts and potential successful interventions with obese adults with intellectual disability in Australia in order to address the obesity-related chronic health problems experienced by this group. It is anticipated that the project will be co-designed with people with intellectual disability, family members and practitioners using an ecological approach to inform policy and systems change.

Important dates

Applications close 5pm, Friday 3 November 2023


This scholarship is available over 3 years.

  • Stipend of $33,500 per annum tax exempt (2023 rate)

Eligibility criteria

To be eligible you must:

  • be a domestic candidate. Domestic includes candidates with Australian Citizenship, Australian Permanent Residency or New Zealand Citizenship.
  • meet Deakin's PhD entry requirements
  • be enrolling full time and hold an honours degree (first class) or an equivalent standard master's degree with a substantial research component.

Please refer to the research degree entry pathways page for further information.

How to apply

Please email a CV and cover letter to Prof Angela Dew. The CV should highlight your skills, education, publications and relevant work experience. If you are successful you will then be invited to submit a formal application.

Contact us

For more information about this scholarship, please contact Prof Angela Dew

Prof Angela Dew
Email Prof Angela Dew
+61 3 92445766