Dr. Austen's current research interests fall into one of two different topic areas:
(1) Positive health behavior change and health promotion in University. Her recent research projects within this program of research include: a binge drinking intervention and a test of its effectiveness in curbing the binge drinking behavior of university students; a pilot study to test the effectiveness of a student-led health promotion group called H-Crew; research on the effectiveness of peer-led seminars for increasing mental health literacy on campus; and research on student and staff perceptions of what makes a healthy campus and what can be done to improve health. There is an abundance of work to be done within this research program. While there is wide variety in the projects that Dr. Austen is engaged in, they all share the common goal of improving health outcomes of students (as well as other members of our campus community) through research-tested initiatives.
(2) Community support for breastfeeding. Both the World Health Organization and Health Canada recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of an infant’s life. Despite high initiation rates for breastfeeding, duration rates are relatively low in Nova Scotia compared to the rest of Canada. One factor that is often identified by mothers as influencing their decision to discontinue breastfeeding is a lack of support. Currently, there is far less research on support for breastfeeding at the community level than at the hospital level or in the home. What does support look like at the community level and how can we improve that support for breastfeeding mothers? How do young adults (who will be the next generation to breastfeed) react when they see someone breastfeeding, and what can be done to increase their comfort levels? These are the types of questions that Dr. Austen and her collaborators have been investigating using a variety of research methods.