Recent News

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.

DPRG @ ISBNPA XChange 2021

There was a strong Diabetes Prevention Research Group presence at last week’s IBNPA XChange 2021 Annual Meeting! Learn more about our presentations, below.

How do we know what to say? Refinement of a Bank of Messages Targeting Diet and Physical Activity Through End-User Evaluation

MacPherson, M.M., Johnston C., Cranston, K., Locke, S., & Jung, M.E.

Purpose: Given the increasing reliance on mobile technologies and widespread use of short messaging services (SMS) as a communication strategy, SMS provides an opportunity to improve the delivery of healthcare virtually. SMS has been shown to be an effective way to reach a broad audience engaging in physical activity and dietary interventions. However, limited evidence exists regarding the development or receptivity to SMS content. Understanding how interventions are developed is necessary for future research to implement effective SMS interventions.

Methods: The study design consisted of two phases. 1) Evaluation: Five SSBC trainers and 13 past SSBC participants were asked to review a bank of 124 SMS messages using a 5-point Likert scale on readability, usefulness, and relevance. Each message was followed by an open text box for suggestions on improvements. 2) Refinement: an average score was calculated for each message (ranging from 3-15). Any message with a score <14 was refined using participant feedback.

Results/findings: On average, messages received a score of 13.77/15±0.76, with SSBC trainers scoring messages 0.81 higher than did past participants. Questions received an average of 2.6 suggestions for improvement (range=0-5). 60 messages received a score <14 and were edited based on feedback from participants; 23 messages received a score >14 but had multiple suggestions so were refined based on feedback; 11 messages received consistent critique revolving around applicability to the program and were removed.

Conclusions: This study involved the evaluation and refinement of a bank of SMS messages which are suitable for use following the SSBC program. These messages are based on behaviour change theory and have been refined based on feedback from those with lived experiences as diabetes prevention program trainers and participants. The message bank, that was positively assessed by those representative of future message senders and recipients, will prompt participants to adhere with the diet and exercise changes they made during the SSBC program.

Implementation evaluation of a diabetes prevention program when delivered by a community organization

Dineen, T., Bean, C., & Jung, M. E.

Purpose: With type two diabetes on the rise, there is a need for more prevention programs to reach the large number of at-risk individuals. The purpose of this research was to examine the implementation process, strategies, and multilevel contextual factors as an evidence-based diabetes prevention program was implemented into two local community organization sites. In-depth reporting of implementation strategies and context are needed to support future studies.

Methods: Small Steps for Big Changes is a brief-counselling diet and exercise modification program for individuals at-risk of developing type 2 diabetes with demonstrated success.  A one-year partnered planning process with a local not-for-profit community organization co-developed an implementation plan for the translation of this project. This research was guided by a pragmatic epistemology. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with community organization staff who delivered the program (n = 8), and a focus group was completed with implementation support staff (n = 5) from both community sites. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and thematically analyzed using a template approach. The consolidated framework for implementation research (CFIR) was used to guide the analysis of this study. The CFIR is a multilevel implementation determinant framework with strong theoretical heritage. Within the template approach, themes were first inductively identified to ensure all salient ideas were captured, then identified themes were deductively linked to CFIR constructs.

Results: Implementation strategies used were appropriate, well-received by staff and promoted successful implementation. Several CFIR constructs were identified from all five domains: (a) process, (b) intervention characteristics, (c) outer setting, (d) inner setting, and (e) individual characteristics. Specifically, results revealed the partnered one-year planning process, program components and structure, level of support, and synergy between program and context were important factors in the implementation.

Conclusion: This study describes the strategies and contextual factors used to implement a community-based diabetes prevention program into two community sites. Successful implementation was supported by a fully engaged, partnered approach to planning, and subsequently executing, an implementation effort. The CFIR provided a thorough framework to identify and evaluate multilevel contextual factors impacting implementation. Results demonstrate a successful approach to working with a community partner to support implementation.

Evidence-based diabetes prevention program implemented with fidelity by community organization

Dineen, T., Banser, T., Bean, C., & Jung, M. E.

Purpose: In-depth fidelity evaluations remain understudied. Fidelity evaluations examine the extent an intervention is delivered as intended and increases confidence that intervention results are due to the intervention itself. As a program translates from one context to another, knowing exactly what and how it was implemented is critical to understand program outcomes and provide feedback to subsequently scale and inform future research. The purpose of this study was to examine the delivery of, and engagement with, an evidence-based diet and exercise diabetes prevention program when delivered by fitness facility staff within a community organization.

Methods: This pragmatic study investigates the implementation of a community-based diabetes prevention program by a local community organization. Ten staff from this organization were trained to deliver an evidence-based program. Between August 2019 – March 2020, 26 clients enrolled in the program. Three fidelity assessments were completed. First, staff completed session-specific fidelity checklists (n = 156). Second, two audio-recorded counseling sessions from all clients underwent an independent coder fidelity check (n = 52). Third, staff recorded client goals on session-specific fidelity checklists and all goals were independently assessed for (a) staff goal-setting fidelity, (b) client intervention receipt, and (c) client goal enactment by two coders (n = 285). Fidelity scores were calculated for each checklist, converted into a percentage, and compared to independent coder fidelity checklists. Content analysis was used for staff goal-setting fidelity, client receipt of intervention, and client goal enactment.

Results: Average self-reported fidelity was 89.5% for all six sessions. Independent coder fidelity scores for the two assessed counseling sessions were 83% and 81%. Overall, staff helped clients create goals in line with program content clients indicated receipt of the program as intended and had a high goal achievement of 79%.

Conclusion: This study demonstrates relatively low-resource methods to assess program fidelity and client engagement. The program was implemented with high fidelity by fitness facility staff at a community organization and clients engaged with the program as intended. Findings increase confidence that program outcomes are due to the intervention itself and provide feedback to refine implementation strategies to support future scale-up efforts.

Using the Behaviour Change Wheel to Develop Text Messages to Promote Diet and Physical Activity Adherence Following a Diabetes Prevention Program

MacPherson, M. M., Cranston, K. D., Locke, S. R., Bourne, J. E., & Jung, M. E.

Purpose: Improvements to diet and physical activity (PA) can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes (T2D); however, long-term adherence to diet and PA is poor. In order to influence T2D risk at a population level, scalable interventions are needed to facilitate behaviour change adherence. Text messaging interventions are a cost-effective way to improve long-term diet and PA changes; however, they often fail to report on theoretical underpinnings of message development. This study aims to describe the development of a bank of text messages to support diet and PA behaviour change adherence following a diabetes prevention program using the Behaviour Change Wheel (BCW). The BCW is a synthesis of 19 behaviour change frameworks which provides structure to intervention design and has been used extensively in health behaviour change interventions.

Methods: The following stages of the BCW were followed: (I) target behaviours and barriers/facilitators to engaging in them; (II) intervention options and policy categories; and (III) relevant behaviour change techniques (BCTs) associated with selected intervention options. A library of text messages was then written to map onto identified BCTs and was coded for BCT fidelity by an independent reviewer trained in BCT identification.

Results: Target behaviours included adherence to diet and PA recommendations. Sixteen barriers/facilitators and 28 associated BCTs were identified through previous qualitative work. One hundred and twenty-four messages were written based on selected BCTs and following the fidelity check, a total of 43 unique BCTs were included in the final bank of messages.

Conclusion: While other research has utilized the BCW to develop text messaging interventions, this is first, to our knowledge, to have an independent coder assess BCT classification in the final message development as a form of fidelity check. This additional step proved imperative in developing a comprehensive picture of the active components within the current bank of messages. By reporting on the theoretical underpinnings and mechanisms of action within text messages, future research can understand not only if these messages are effective, but also why certain messages may be more or less effective, and what combination and dose of messages can optimally influence behaviour change.

What makes up an effective diabetes prevention program: identifying behaviour change techniques and motivational interviewing techniques in a community-based program for adults at risk for type 2 diabetes

Cranston, K.D., MacPherson, M.M., Dineen, T.E., & Jung, M.E.

Purpose: Diet and physical activity programs are effective at reducing one’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes (T2D); however, it is not known what specific techniques lead to optimal outcomes. When developing and implementing diabetes prevention programs in the community, it is imperative that intervention components are thoroughly and consistently reported to understand program effectiveness and help with scaling up. Small Steps for Big Changes (SSBC) is an evidence-based diabetes prevention program that consists of six one-on-one sessions with a coach. Coaches deliver diet and physical activity content to clients using behaviour change techniques (BCTs) and motivational interviewing (MI). BCTs are the specific active intervention components, and MI techniques describe the relational aspects of how intervention components are delivered. By reporting the BCTs and MI techniques, future researchers can better replicate the components and the delivery style of an intervention. The purpose of this study was to comprehensively identify the BCTs and MI techniques within SSBC.

Methods: BCTs and MI techniques were coded within each of the six SSBC session protocols using the BCT Taxonomy v1 and the Table of MI Techniques. To ensure reliable coding, two coders completed the BCT coding and two coders completed the MI techniques coding. Interrater reliability was assessed.

Results/findings: Forty-three BCTs (interrater reliability [kappa]=0.77) and 20 MI techniques (kappa=0.63) were identified within the SSBC protocols (mean BCTs per session=30; mean MI techniques per session=16). SSBC sessions specifically focussed on the BCT categories of “Goals and Planning”, “Feedback and Monitoring”, and “Repetition and Substitution”, and the MI technique processes of “Engaging” and “Evoking”.

Conclusions: Detailed reporting of intervention components are necessary for future reviews to accurately test which intervention components are effective in eliciting change in desired outcomes. This study revealed the use of a greater number of BCTs in the SSBC program compared to the numbers of BCTs reported in a number of T2D programs. In general, more thorough reporting of BCTs used in interventions will progress the field of health behaviour change. Further, the detailed reporting of the specific techniques within SSBC can be used to inform development of future diabetes prevention programs.