Maria Toftgaard Pedersen

Name: Maria Toftgaard Pedersen
Country: Denmark
Current job title: Social Worker
Institution: Aalborg University, Denmark Master of Sociology
Short autobiography:

I am an ambitious master’s degree student in Sociology at Aalborg University specialising within Social Psychology and Health Sociology. Presently, I am working on my MA thesis on how to change behaviour in the direction of taking healthy nutrition choices. The thesis focuses on the health of Danish vocational college students’. Especially, boys’ obesity and overweight is important to how they perceive themselves. Studies show that students’ body image plays a major role in determining their self-esteem and health. Students at these schools are in high risk of ending in a socially disadvantaged group, where they can face health challenges. The thesis combines quantitative and qualitative methods so that the quantitative study is backed up by qualitative observations and interviews. The aim is to test various nudge-solutions to see whether such solutions may increase healthy nutrition choices in socially disadvantaged groups. My focal point is to understand how norms, values and social contexts affect students’ eating habits and how to make it easier for students to live healthier and hereby obtain better health and more self-esteem. The data collection will take place in cooperation with professor Bent Egberg Mikkelsen and Post doc. Annette Quinto Romani. As a part of my Master degree at Aalborg University, Denmark, I have spent one semester at Macquarie University in Sydney as an intern at The Centre for Volunteering, Sydney. I have hereby extended my qualitative research skills and gained an academic insight into anthropology with a focus on appearance in marginalised and socially disadvantaged groups. At The Centre for Volunteering I worked with matching volunteers with volunteer work. The group of volunteers I worked with was not able to take an ‘ordinary’ job and they had difficulties finding volunteer work. One of the greatest challenges was too convince the companies about the benefits they could gain from employing these volunteers. I learned a lot about working with this group and got a great insight in being a socially disadvantaged group. As a part of my Bachelor degree (BSc) in Sociology from Aalborg University I specialised in marginalised groups in society and challenged by appearing different in various arenas. In cooperation with four fellow students I have conducted a project on teenage girls’ behaviour in different arenas. Teenage girls are particularly challenged in relation to having to live up to the mainstream trend and can easily feel left out. We found out that the girls were very competent in taking on the various roles although we see an increase in the number of arenas in which the girls participate. However, problems arise when the roles played are too expansive and are played in the inadequate situations. Furthermore, I have worked on a project on lonely elderly and the taboo of their being physically insufficient in a society where many citizens live up to 100 years. Through my education I have gained much experience with sampling of data and completing quantitative as well as qualitative analyses. The projects I have undertaken have all been evidence-based and supervised by qualified experts. Work experience I have been an assistant on 12 nudges that were tested in various sites in Denmark. I was in charge of the evaluations of the nudges. The results were shown in prime time television on the biggest Danish public channel DR1. The nudge solutions have contributed to promote health in vocational colleges and in high schools by bringing in more exercise, cleanliness and healthier diets. Furthermore, I have worked fulltime at the Danish Behavioural Design Agency KRUKOW developing nudges for insurance companies, security at workplaces, emergency departments and football stadiums.

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