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Professor Neville Owen

Professor Neville Owen

Head: Behavioural Epidemiology


Melbourne University supervisor

+61 3 8532 1874

Neville is a NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow and Distinguished Professor Health Sciences at Swinburne University. He has Honorary appointments as an Adjunct Professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Queensland and the Department of Medicine at Monash University.

His research relates to the primary prevention of diabetes, heart disease and cancer, through identifying the health consequences and environmental determinates of physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour — too little exercise and too much sitting. This involves laboratory-based experimental work, large scale prospective observational studies and real-world intervention trials. He has published some 600 peer-reviewed papers and chapters.

Neville has been supported continuously by grants from the NHMRC since 1992. He has recentrly completed his secod five-year Program Grant (Sitting less and moving more: population health research to understand and influence sedentary behaviour) and a NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence (Sitting time and chronic disease — measurement, mechanisms and interventions).


  • In tobacco control, documenting novel population data on correlates of tobacco use, outcomes of telephone and print delivered smoking cessation interventions; this provided key evidence to inform tobacco control strategies; co-writing the original 'Can Quit Book' (the precursor of the self-help cessation guides used to this day) and conducting the NHMRC trial led to the national 'Quit Coach' smoking-cessation website.
  • In physical activity, conducting measurement studies had a strong scientific influence and led to initiatives developing the Active Australia Survey; since the mid-1990s, this has been the standard method used by the Commonwealth and states to characterise physical activity in population-health surveys; publishing a set of peer-reviewed papers on the outcomes of state and national mass media campaigns that remain internationally-unique findings.
  • In policy formulation, conducted the Why People Do and Do Not Exercise project for the Commonwealth in the early 1980s and provided the evidence base for the Heart Foundation's Built Environment and Walking, and Healthy Spaces and Places initiatives.
  •  In sedentary behaviour, recognition of research leadership through US-NCI advisory roles, invited presentations and chapters for mainstream exercise science and physical activity textbooks.
  • Safrit Lecture, Conference on Sedentary Behaviour and Health, University of Illinois (October 2015)
  • Bridges-Webb Oration: ‘Too little exercise and too much sitting: emerging implications for diabetes and cardiovascular disease’, Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Sydney (August 2018)

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