Dr Niamh Donnellan

BA, MA, Msc, PhD


Niamh* is a health geographer passionate about understanding how the environment in which we live, work and play influences child health, health behaviours and resulting health inequalities. Her research is at the intersection of child, health, cultural, geospatial and urban geograpies. It draws on participatory, community, qualitative, quantitative and evaluative research methodologies.

Her key research areas are 1) understanding how the social and built (including food and physical activity) environments can encourage or hinder healthy behaviours in children; 2) utilising mixed methods for assessing the influence of place on child health and wellbeing; 3) developing geospatial interventions that are child-centred and co-created to encourage physical activity in the neighbourhood; 4) evaluating physical activity and active school travel interventions; 5) using participatory methods with community partners for the development of transport, health and educational policy. She is committed to ensuring my research is meaningful and beneficial to children and stakeholders, and prioritises including participant voice in her research. 

In 2019, Niamh was awarded a Health Research Council of New Zealand Emerging Researcher First Grant to develop novel geospatial methods to measure the food and activity environments for child health. She completed her PhD in Health Geography in 2017 at the GeoHealth Laboratory, University of Canterbury and her thesis was titled 'A Geospatial approach to measuring the built environment for active transport, physical activity and health outcomes'.

Currently she is working on a number of projects including:

1) completing geospatial analyses on data from the Neighbourhoods for Active Kids study funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand and led by Associate Professor Melody Smith;

2) leading the Knowing Your Neighbourhood Study.  Developing a healthy environments for children index and testing associations with child health behaviours in Taranaki, New Zealand funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand.

*pronounced Nia+iv or check out how her name sounds here.

Research | Current

Neighbourhoods for Active Kids 

HRC's Emerging Researcher First Grant 2019 titled 'Novel approach to measuring the food and activity environments for child health'.

Research interests

  • Health inequalities
  • Child health
  • GIS
  • Spatial analysis
  • Active transport, physical activity
  • Built environment
  • Transport and urban planning policies

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Zhao, J., Chang, K., Mackay, L., Ikeda, E., Donnellan, N., & Smith, M. (2018). Visualising children’s activity patterns and their association with obesity status and geography. Paper presented at Joint conference of the New Zealand Geographical Society and the Institute of Australian Geographers, Auckland, New Zealand. 11 July - 14 July 2018. Related URL.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/45974
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Jinfeng Zhao, Melody Smith
  • Zhao, J., Mavoa, S., Chang, K., Mackay, L., Stewart, T., Ikeda, E., ... Smith, M. (2018). Visualising time use patterns of children’s activities and their association with obesity status, active travel and neighbourhood context. Paper presented at 40th International Association for Time Use Research Conference, Budapest, Hungary. 24 October - 26 October 2018. Related URL.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Jinfeng Zhao, Melody Smith
  • Donnellan, N. M., Kingham, S., & Campbell, M. (2017). Assessing the built environment for active transport, physical activity and health outcomes using Kernel density estimation. Paper presented at 17th International Medical Geography Symposium, University of Angers, France. 3 July - 7 July 2017. 17th International Medical Geography Symposium. Related URL.


Contact details

Primary office location

M&HS BUILDING 502 - Bldg 502
Level 2, Room 205
New Zealand

Web links