Recent News


There was a strong Diabetes Prevention Research Group presence at this year’s North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity (NASPSPA) Annual Conference in Kona, Hawaii. Learn more about our presentations, below.

Making the ‘MOST’ out of your mHealth intervention: How to develop behaviour change interventions using the Multiphase Optimization Strategy.

MacPherson, M., Merry, K., Locke, S., Jung, M.E.

With thousands of health and fitness mHealth interventions on the market, people struggle to choose an appropriate intervention. The lack of evidence-based mHealth may be due to limited research on intervention development and continued use of traditional research methods for mHealth evaluation. The Multiphase Optimization Strategy (MOST) is a 3 phase development framework which highlights not only intervention effectiveness, but also affordability, scalability, and efficiency (EASE), all factors necessary to developing mHealth interventions that will be used in practice. MOST Phase I highlights the importance of formative intervention development, which is often overlooked and rarely published. MOST Phase I aims to identify candidate intervention components, create a conceptual model, and define an optimization objective; however, the framework does not provide robust guidance on how to conduct quality Phase I research: what steps can be taken to identify intervention components, develop the conceptual model, and achieve intervention EASE with the implementation context in mind. To advance the applicability of MOST within the field of behaviour change science, this work provides an exemplar for how to develop an mHealth intervention. Specifically, we provide an example of how to achieve MOST Phase I goals by outlining the formative development of a text messaging intervention within a diabetes prevention program. Based on these experiences, recommendations are proposed for future researchers to conduct formative research on mHealth interventions with implementation in mind. Given its considerable reach, mHealth has the potential to positively impact public health by decreasing implementation costs and improving accessibility. MOST is well-suited for the efficient development and optimization of mHealth interventions. By using an implementation-focused lens and outlining the steps in developing an mHealth intervention using MOST Phase I, this work can guide future intervention developers towards maximizing the impact of mHealth outside of the research laboratory.

Examining the delivery of motivational interviewing and behavior change techniques in an mHealth exercise intervention for adults with type 2 diabetes.

Cranston, K. D., MacPherson, M. M., Dineen, T. E., McManus, A., Cocks, M., Low, J., Hesketh, K., & Jung, M. E.

The primary focus on efficacy within physical activity interventions impedes implementation outside of the research context. P-values and effect sizes alone do not provide necessary information on how an intervention might be translated into a different context. Comprehensive reporting of active ingredients within an intervention, coupled with intervention fidelity must be addressed at the early stages of trial design to improve implementation. The purpose of this work was to code active intervention components (behaviour change techniques [BCTs] and motivational interviewing [MI] techniques) used within MOTIVATE T2D and examine the extent to which coaches implement the intervention as intended. MOTIVATE T2D is an ongoing randomized pilot study assessing if mobile health technology can improve exercise adherence among individuals with type 2 diabetes. Exercise coaches meet one-on-one with participants in both an exercise counselling control group and an exercise counselling plus mobile health group. Coaches received brief MI training and were provided with session scripts to ensure consistency between groups. Three independent reviewers coded the BCTs and MI techniques in all session scripts. The reviewers then coded a random selection of audio recordings of each of the sessions delivered by the exercise coaches. Session scripts contained 3-14 BCTs and 4-11 MI techniques. Audio recordings contained 3-7 BCTs and 4-11 MI techniques that were in the scripts, and 2-4 BCTs and 1-3 MI techniques that were not in the scripts. To determine the effectiveness of the MOTIVATE T2D pilot study, delivery fidelity must be critically considered. Before progressing to a randomized controlled trial, changes to the scripts and coach training can be made to help improve delivery fidelity. Broadly, comprehensive reporting and adequate fidelity can enable more accurate interpretation of research findings, thus allowing for successful interventions to be more accurately and easily implemented into different contexts.

Move better to feel better: A mixed-methods exploration of the impact of an mHealth app on perceptions of functional movement and physical fitness.

Stork, M. J., McCreary, S., Bean, C., & Jung, M. E.

movr is an mHealth app that has been shown to enhance functional movement and physical fitness by prescribing physical training based on personalized movement assessments. movr’s app usability and impact on perceptions of physical functioning are unknown. The purpose of this study was to explore participants’ receptivity to the movr app and examine how using the app impacted perceptions of functional movement and physical fitness. Forty-eight healthy adults (24 women, 24 men; Mage: 24 ± 5 years) were randomly assigned to 8 weeks of using the movr app (n = 24) or 8 weeks waitlist control (n = 24). A concurrent embedded mixed-methods design was used. The quantitative component consisted of self-reported measures of physical activity enjoyment (PACES) and satisfaction with physical fitness (SPF). The qualitative component consisted of one-on-one semi-structured interviews among a random sub-sample of 15 participants in the movr group. Measures were taken, and interviews were conducted, pre- and post-intervention. Mixed repeated-measures ANOVAs revealed no changes in PACES for either group (ps > .05). Only a significant main effect of time was found for SPF (p = .02), such that scores increased pre- to post-intervention in the movr group (p = .01), but not in the control group (p = .45). Using a codebook thematic analysis, five overarching themes were identified. Three themes were linked to app usability (perceived benefits of app use, challenges, recommendations) and two themes were linked to perceived impact on functioning (physical, psychological). The movr app was well received and positively impacted participants’ perceptions of functional movement and physical fitness (e.g., flexibility, strength). Such findings showed that movr improved perceptions of physical functioning over an 8-week period and provided new insights about the usability and accessibility of the app. It appears that movr is a user-friendly tool that may be used to enhance perceptions (and measures) of functional movement and physical fitness among healthy adults.

Can a brief equity, diversity and inclusion module increase kinesiology students’ empathetic awareness of people who experience weight or race biases?

Sim, J., Cranston, K., & Jung, M.E.

Many individuals with overweight and obesity or from racialized groups experience stigma and bias from healthcare practitioners. Small Steps for Big Changes (SSBC) is a diabetes prevention program designed to empower individuals at risk of type 2 diabetes to make diet and exercise changes in their lives. It is important to train SSBC coaches on equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) to reduce the biases they may hold towards SSBC clients. This study investigated whether a brief EDI module could increase kinesiology students’ (a population representative of SSBC coaches) empathetic awareness of people who experience weight and/or race biases.

Participants were recruited through online postings, classroom visits, and email lists. Participants were randomly divided into four groups: EDI-weight, non-EDI-weight, EDI-race, and non-EDI-race. The non-EDI groups were used as a manipulation check. Empathetic awareness
was measured using the empathetic awareness subscale of the Scale of Ethnocultural Empathy and then adapted to fit the weight scenario. The two EDI groups completed the brief SSBC EDI module, and the non-EDI groups watched a neutral video. Empathetic awareness was measured before and after watching either the EDI module or neutral video. The EDI-weight group reported significantly higher mean empathetic awareness to overweight individuals’ postmodule (M = 5.64, SD = 0.65) compared to pre (M = 5.19, SD = 0.76, p = 0.024). There was no difference in empathetic awareness towards racialized individuals from pre (M= 4.91, SD = 1.01) to post module (M = 4.91, SD = 0.82, p = 1.0). These results suggest that a brief EDI module can increase kinesiology students’ empathetic awareness towards people who experience weight biases.

E-learning in diabetes prevention: Examining the effectiveness of an online training program for diabetes prevention coaches.

Grieve, N. J., Cranston, K. D., & Jung, M. E.

E-learning platforms have been shown to be an effective mode for teaching content and skills to health professionals, however less is known within the context of training diabetes prevention coaches. This study aimed to examine the effectiveness of an online coach training course within Small Steps for Big Changes (SSBC). SSBC is a community-based diabetes prevention program run in partnership with the YMCA. SSBC guides adults with prediabetes through exercise and counselling sessions using a motivational interviewing (MI) approach to help empower healthy lifestyle modifications and prevent type 2 diabetes (T2D). This program requires specific training for SSBC coaches (ie., YMCA staff) to counsel clients. Originally, an in-person training workshop was held to train SSBC coaches; however, this process logistically limits training opportunities and program scale-up. As such, an online course to deliver training to SSBC coaches was developed, and effectiveness was determined using pre- and post-training questionnaires assessing knowledge of T2D, MI and SSBC content. Incoming SSBC coaches completed an asynchronous 7-module e-learning course that consisted of relevant content on how to guide a SSBC client through the program. These modules covered SSBC-specific content, MI skills and knowledge, and general T2D information. These modules were followed by a virtual mock client session for coaches to practice skills and apply their leaning. MI knowledge (M1=4.00, SD1=1.63, M2=6.14, SD2=0.90; P < 0.05), and SSBC content knowledge (M1=5.00, SD1=1.82, M2=8.29, SD2=0.95; P < 0.05) significantly increased from pre- to post-training. Increases in diabetes knowledge did not reach statistical significance (M1=7.43, SD1=1.90, M2=8.43, SD2=0.79; P= 0.11). This study demonstrates promising results for e-learning in the context of novice SSBC coaches and can be adapted to other diabetes prevention coaching contexts. This online coach training will allow for SSBC to train more coaches, expand to locations across Canada, and ultimately reach more adults living with prediabetes.

Dr. Matt Stork departs DPRG to pursue exercise research at Lululemon Athletica

This week, Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Matthew Stork embarks on a new position at Lululemon Athletica!

Matt joined the DPRG jointly with the Exercise, Metabolism, and Inflammation Lab (EMIL) as a postdoctoral fellow in 2019. His research has fostered an unique, interdisciplinary scientific approach that ranges from psychology, emotional well-being, and behaviour, to applied physiology, fitness testing, and human performance. His research has been funded by the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR) Trainee Award, Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Fellowship Award, and Mitacs Accelerate Postdoctoral Internship

As a Mitacs Accelerate Postdoctoral Intern, Matt led an industry-university research project with Lululemon. This interdisciplinary project involved an 8-week randomized controlled trial examining the real-world impact of the an mHealth app on functional movement, physical fitness, and perceptions of physical functioning.

Matt’s research with DPRG and EMIL has also focused on developing and delivering novel and practical exercise interventions such as “exercise snacks” in the workplace.

Matt recently finished data collection for a study investigating the feasibility of implementing practical and time-efficient stair climbing high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and “exercise snacks” in various workplaces across UBC Okanagan. This project was a unique opportunity to explore UBCO employees’ receptivity to these forms of exercise in free-living, real-world workplace settings. Matt hopes the findings from this area of research can eventually be used to help enhance employee health, well-being, and work productivity.

This week, Matt joins Lululemon Athletica as a Senior Research Scientist. His interdisciplinary research expertise, passion for enhancing the physical and mental health of others, and appetite for innovation are a perfect fit within Lululemon’s collaborative environment. Matt has demonstrated a capacity for research excellence in his previous work with Lululemon and is excited to take on new challenges and continue to explore, learn, and grow in his new position.

Of his time at UBC Okanagan, Matt says “It has been an absolute pleasure to work with and learn from the DPRG and EMIL teams over the years. I’ve had invaluable research, learning, and mentorship opportunities while being part of these teams and I am incredibly grateful for the lasting connections I have fostered with Mary, Jon, and all members of both labs that I’ve had the privilege to come across.”

The DPRG team wishes Matt the best of luck in his new position and beyond!

Four new grad students join DRPG

We are thrilled to announce that four new graduate students join the Diabetes Prevention Research Group (DPRG) this January 2022!

Azar Bohlouli

Azar studied nutrition sciences and dietetics for her undergraduate degree at Isfahan University of Medical Sciences in Iran. Before joining the DPRG, she was a humanitarian aid worker with international aid agencies and a technical consultant with WHO. Her research interests are community health and development, evaluation of community-based projects, and health equity. Azar is delighted to be a member of the DRPRG team and looks forward to supporting research that improves quality of life for everyone. She looks forward to exploring the beautiful nature in Canada and she cannot wait to see Kelowna in the summer.

Azize Yıldırım

Azize received her master’s degree in Clinical Nutrition from the University of Roehampton, UK. Her dissertation focused on the role of high protein intake on glucose control in adults with prediabetes. During her degree, she also contributed to other projects, such as the paper “The effects of high-protein diets on glucose metabolism and visceral adipose in rats”, published in Nutrients. During her degree, she also supported data data collection and nutrition analyses of plant-based offerings in the UK, US, and Canada supermarkets in collaboration with researchers from King’s College London.

After her degree, Azize worked as a consultant dietitian, working with people with obesity and chronic diseases, then later joined Istanbul Gelisim University as a part-time lecturer. Azize is excited to pursue her PhD with the DPRG and hopes to research how to best motivate people to make lifestyle changes, how people can stick to these behaviour changes, and what dietary interventions work best for diabetes prevention. As a nutritionist, Azize also has research interest in the effects of dietary changes on actual calorie-nutrient intake and macronutrient compositions.

Jenna Sim

Jenna is a returning DPRG team member. She has previously completed an undergraduate honours thesis, 499 research project, and research assistant position with the team during her undergraduate degree.

Her honours thesis work explored whether a 20-minute online module could reduce human kinetics students’ explicit biases on weight and race. Learn more about Jenna’s honours thesis with DPRG here. After completing her thesis work with DPRG, Jenna was inspired to stay involved in research and continue working with the team. She plans to study health equity, community-based health promotion, and chronic disease prevention.

Jenna loves cross-country skiing in the winter, and trail running and mountain biking in the summer!

Sarah Percival

Sarah joins the team from Norwich, England. She previously completed an undergraduate degree in Molecular Biology and Genetics at the University of East Anglia, and a Masters in Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Alongside studying, Sarah has worked as a Personal Trainer and Sports Massage Therapist for 13 years and is passionate about helping people to achieve their goals and improve their health.

Having enjoyed gaining prior experience working in behaviour change research, facilitating diet and physical activity interventions for disease prevention, Sarah is excited to start her PhD as part of the DPRG team. She looks forward to getting involved with the Small Steps for Big Changes study and hopes to specialise in nutritional research for type 2 diabetes prevention.

Sarah says she is grateful for this opportunity and is really looking forward to experiencing life in the Okanagan. In particular, she can’t wait to ski in the winters and to explore the wineries, go hiking and hang out by the lake in the summers. Choosing her favourite winery will be very important research! Sarah loves cooking, running and visiting new places with her husband and their dog, Poppy!

World Diabetes Day 2021!

Small Steps for Big Changes, sponsored by the Diabetes Prevention Research Group, is proud and excited to announce this years’ World Diabetes Day events!

We’re hosting a week of FREE events in Kelowna to help you make healthy lifestyle changes! EVERYBODY is welcome! Attend a free cooking class, try pickleball, come listen to our expert speakers, dance Zumba, and more!

Also, did we mention there will be prizes?! We have some amazing swag and generous sponsors from local businesses… and a prize wheel! Stop by Rowcliffe Park (on the corner of Rowcliffe Ave and Richter St.) on Sunday, November 14th between 11am – 3pm to spin the prize wheel and join in on our free beginner exercise classes.

Convinced yet? Here’s how you can participate:

  • Step 1: Pick up your ACTIVITY PUNCH CARD at one of our events or at our website
  • Step 2: Attend FREE events online and throughout the City of Kelowna from Nov 8-14
  • Step 3: Every event you attend gets a free spin on the PRIZE WHEEL on Nov 14!

To learn more about how to participate in this years’ events, check out

We can’t wait to learn with you, exercise with you, and see you this Nov 8-14!

DPRG Researcher Spotlight – Emmanuel Gomes Ciolac

DPRG Spotlight is our latest initiative to shine a light on diverse health & exercise researchers here in Canada and around the world.

Through our Spotlight series, we aim to:

  • Learn together as a team about outstanding researchers in the field of health behaviour change
  • Provide a platform to shine a light on outstanding scholars
  • Ensure we are inclusive when citing academic sources by expanding our knowledge of researchers at home and abroad

Emmanuel Gomes Ciolac is this months’ DPRG Spotlight researcher!

We love Emmanuel’s work on low-volume high-intensity interval training as a therapy for type 2 diabetes. Find his publications on this and other topics here.

Learn more about Emmanuel’s background, research, and experience below.

Meet Cara!

The DPRG is proud to welcome undergraduate Cara Johnston back to the team this term!

Cara is a fourth year Human Kinetics student at UBC Okanagan. She has been a part of the DPRG team for over a year; first, as a 499 research practicum student and more recently, as a summer research assistant.

This year, Cara rejoins the team to complete her undergraduate honours thesis project!

In the past year, Cara has grown increasingly aware of the lack of representation for ethnically diverse populations in Diabetes Prevention Programs (DPPs) across the globe. Therefore, in her thesis project, she hopes to investigate and contribute to the creation of better informed and more inclusive recruitment and enrollment of individuals with prediabetes into the Small Steps for Big Changes DPP.

Welcome back, Cara!

Congratulations, Skylar!

This month, DPRG’s own Skylar Schmidtke successfully defended her masters thesis!

Her project studied the effects of kid-friendly food plating to encourage fruit and vegetable consumption in kids. Researchers have long known that exposure to fruit and vegetables at a young age is important for developing a healthy palate and encouraging good dietary habits later in life. However, many caregivers struggle to compete with heavily advertised modern processed foods.

Skylar’s study used an innovative design to bring fruits and vegetables into the home! Participants in the study received a kit at home containing all the ingredients needed for a healthy snack. Half of the kids in the study ate a standard snack, while the other half received a visually appealing kid-friendly snack, prepared by their caregiver.

The intervention in this study uses a new technique called “kid-friendly plating”, where healthy foods are creatively displayed on a plate to make them more visually appealing. Relatively quick and easy ways for caregivers to promote healthy eating, like kid-friendly plating, may help encourage kids to eat more fruits and vegetables.

This study is the first to examine the effectiveness of kid-friendly plating in a home-based setting!

Want to try out kid-friendly food plating techniques in your own home? Skylar suggests the following resources:

A huge congratulations to Skylar for her hard work with the DPRG. It has been an honour to have her on the team, and we wish her the best of luck!

Welcome Ruitong & Kyra!

This fall, two new graduate students join the Diabetes Prevention Research Group! We are thrilled to welcome Ruitong Gao and Kyra Braaten to the team!


Ruitong Gao joins the team as a visiting international research student from Jilin University, China, where is completing her PhD in Nursing. Ruitong’s research interests are in health behavior change of individuals with chronic diseases, especially self-management behavior of type 2 diabetes.

Ruitong says that she is so lucky to study here and experience the cultural differences of different countries. She is thrilled to join the DPRG team and can’t wait to walk around Okanagan Lake. She is looking forward to trying ice wines in wineries in the Okanagan and learning to ski. Ruitong also loves to cook!

Kyra Braaten joins the team from the small town of Abbey, Saskatchewan. She previously completed her undergraduate studies in Kinesiology at the University of Saskatchewan.

Kyra is grateful for the opportunity to be involved with the Small Steps for Big Changes study and join the DPRG team! While most of her experience promoting health has been with children, she look forward to working with adult and older adult populations during her time at UBCO.

Kyra lovea being outdoors and is excited to ski, wake board, and golf in the Okanagan. She is looking forward to meeting new people and exploring Kelowna and the surrounding area. Kyra has always wanted to try windsurfing and hopes to check it off her bucket list whilst living in BC!

DPRG Researcher Spotlight – NiCole Keith

DPRG Spotlight is our latest initiative to shine a light on diverse health & exercise researchers here in Canada and around the world.

Through our Spotlight series, we aim to:

  • Learn together as a team about outstanding researchers in the field of health behaviour change
  • Provide a platform to shine a light on outstanding scholars
  • Ensure we are inclusive when citing academic sources by expanding our knowledge of researchers at home and abroad

NiCole Keith is this months’ DPRG Spotlight researcher!

We love NiCole’s work focusing on social factors that impact attitudes and perceptions towards weight-related behaviours. Find her publications on this topic here.

Learn more about NiCole’s background, research, and experience below.

DPRG Researcher Spotlight – Ruth Ndjaboue

Today, we’re introducing DPRG Spotlight, a new initiative to shine a light on diverse health & exercise researchers here in Canada and around the world.

Through our Spotlight series, we aim to:

  • Learn together as a team about outstanding researchers in the field of health behaviour change
  • Provide a platform to shine a light on outstanding scholars
  • Ensure we are inclusive when citing academic sources by expanding our knowledge of researchers at home and abroad

Ruth Njaboue is our inaugural DPRG Spotlight researcher!

We love Ruth’s recent qualitative study on experiences of people with type 2 diabetes. Using Expert Patients, she and the team were able to meaningfully include patients in all steps of the study. Read the full study here!

Learn more about Ruth’s background, research, and experience below.