Dr Tanja Sobko

Dr Tanja Sobko (PhD, 2006, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden) has multidisciplinary expertise in pharmacology, nutrition, healthy lifestyle interventions and more recently, sports nutrition. She contributed to an early-nutrition initiative for the World Health Organisation (WHO), Programme for nutrition, physical activity and obesity. She currently works at School of Biological Sciences, The University of Hong Kong

Tanja’s work encompasses not only research and teaching but also the dissemination of findings to the wider community. Her research focuses on lifestyle adjustments that families with pre-schoolers can make which will directly improve the health of both the children and their families. The Randomised Controlled Trial, ‘Play & Grow’ intervention, is designed to influence daily behaviours and establish beneficial habits early in life. By increasing the contact time that families have with nature, the programme has been developed to assess and potentially identify the causal relationship between the environment and health; a continuous process of data analysis runs concurrently with the development of valid and reliable evaluation methodologies.

Tanja has been teaching the courses ‘Nutrition & Sports performance’, ‘Food, Environment and Health’ and supervises both undergraduates and PhD students. When she’s not researching, Tanja actively practices Aikido, cooks, bakes and hikes around Hong Kong.

Our International Collaborators

Prof Gavin Brown
Auckland University, NZ

Prof Anahi Carcamo University de Magallanes, CL

Prof Louise Turner Chawla University of Colorado Boulder, USA

Prof Karin González Allende Universidad de Chile, CL

Prof Matthew Kaplan
Penn State University, USA

Matias Knust

Dr Dulce Maia
Trindade, CDC Macau SAR

Dr Filomena McGuire
Ken Wu Hospital, Macau SAR

Prof Tore Midtvedt
Karolinska Institutet, SW

Dr Michele Notari
University BHBern, SW

Prof Susan Prescott University of Western Australia, AU

Prof Chia-huei Tseng
Sendai University, JP

Dr Hein Tun
Hong Kong University, HKG

Prof Desiree Silva
University of Western Australia, AUS

Published Evidence

Sobko T, et al, Sci Rep. (2020)

Impact of outdoor nature-related activities on gut microbiota, fecal serotonin, and perceived stress in preschool children: the Play&Grow randomized controlled trial.

Sobko, T., and Chawla, L.

“Intergenerational gardening on urban rooftops: The example of the ‘Play and Grow’ Program in Hong Kong.” In M. Kaplan, J. Hoffman, M. Sánchez & L. L. Thang (eds.), Intergenerational Contact Zones: Place-based Tools for Promoting Social Inclusion and Belonging. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

Sobko, Tanja, Brown, Gavin T.L, & Cheng, Will H.G. (2020).

Does connectedness to nature improve the eating behaviours of pre-schoolers? Emerging evidence from the Play&Grow randomised controlled trial in Hong Kong. Appetite, 104781.

Tang, Tsz Wing, & Sobko, Tanja. (2019).

Environmental Impact of the Average Hong Kong Diet: A Case for Adopting Sustainable Diets in Urban Centers. Challenges (Basel), 10(2), 5.

Sobko, T., Jia, Z. Z., & Brown, G. (2018).

Measuring connectedness to nature in preschool children in an urban setting and its relation to psychological functioning. Plos One, 13(11).

Sobko, T., Jia, Z., Kaplan, M., Lee, A., & Tseng, C. H. (2016).

Promoting healthy eating and active playtime by connecting to nature families with preschool children: evaluation of pilot study “Play&Grow”. Pediatric research81(4), 572-581.

Sobko, T., Tse, M., & Kaplan, M. (2016).

A randomized controlled trial for families with preschool children-promoting healthy eating and active playtime by connecting to nature. BMC public health16(1), 505.

Zhang, J. H., Macfarlane, D. J., & Sobko, T. (2016). 

Feasibility of a Chest-worn accelerometer for physical activity measurement. Journal of science and medicine in sport19(12), 1015-1019.

Bosi, A. T. B., Eriksen, K. G., Sobko, T., Wijnhoven, T. M., & Breda, J. (2016).

Breastfeeding practices and policies in WHO European region member states. Public health nutrition19(4), 753-764.

Svensson, V., Sobko, T., Ek, A., Forssén, M., Ekbom, K., Johansson, E., … & Marcus, C. (2016).

Obesogenic dietary intake in families with one-year-old infants at high and low obesity risk based on parental weight status – baseline data from a longitudinal obesity intervention (Early STOPP). European journal of nutrition55(2), 781-792.

Lao, X. Q., Ma, W. J., Sobko, T., Zhang, Y. H., Xu, Y. J., Xu, X. J., … & Thomas, G. N. (2015). 

Overall obesity is leveling-off while abdominal obesity continues to rise in a Chinese population experiencing rapid economic development: analysis of serial cross-sectional health survey data 2002–2010. International Journal of Obesity39(2), 288-294.

Sobko, T., Trindade, D., Lao, Q. X., Wong, M., Io, T. K., Wa, C. K., & Gu, K. (2014).

Men in Macau SAR have higher prevalence in metabolic syndrome and among related metabolic components: a cross-sectional Macau Health Survey. BMC public health14(1), 1065.

Lao, X. Q., Ma, W. J., Sobko, T., Zhang, Y. H., Xu, Y. J., Xu, X. J., … & Xia, L. (2014). 

Dramatic escalation in metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular risk in a Chinese population experiencing rapid economic development. BMC Public Health14(1), 983.

Lakshman, R., Zhang, J., Zhang, J., Koch, F. S., Marcus, C., Ludvigsson, J., … & Sobko, T. (2013).

Higher maternal education is associated with favourable growth of young children in different countries. J Epidemiol Community Health, jech-2012.

Cao, Y. T., Svensson, V., Marcus, C., Zhang, J., Zhang, J. D., & Sobko, T. (2012). 

Eating behaviour patterns in Chinese children aged 12-18 months and association with relative weight-factorial validation of the Children’s Eating Behaviour Questionnaire. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity9(1), 5.

Zeigler, C. C., Persson, G. R., Wondimu, B., Marcus, C., Sobko, T., & Modéer, T. (2012).

Microbiota in the oral subgingival biofilm is associated with obesity in adolescence. Obesity20(1), 157-164.

Svensson, V., Lundborg, L., Cao, Y., Nowicka, P., Marcus, C., & Sobko, T. (2011). 

Obesity related eating behaviour patterns in Swedish preschool children and association with age, gender, relative weight and parental weight-factorial validation of the Children’s Eating Behaviour Questionnaire. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity8(1), 134.

Sobko, T., Svensson, V., Ek, A., Ekstedt, M., Karlsson, H., Johansson, E., … & Marcus, C. (2011). 

A randomised controlled trial for overweight and obese parents to prevent childhood obesity-Early STOPP (STockholm Obesity Prevention Program). BMC Public Health11(1), 336.

Svensson, V., Jacobsson, J. A., Fredriksson, R., Danielsson, P., Sobko, T., Schiöth, H. B., & Marcus, C. (2011).

Associations between severity of obesity in childhood and adolescence, obesity onset and parental BMI: a longitudinal cohort study. International journal of obesity35(1), 46-52.

Our team

Matthew Fong

Matthew graduated from The University of Hong Kong in the Faculty of Science. With the knowledge of mathematics and statistics, he is involved in the Play & Grow program to analysing the huge database from the results of the Play & Grow participants.

Gemma Harrad

Gemma graduated from Central Saint Martins (University of the arts London) and is working as a Multi-Media Designer with Food Nature Lab. She believes in exploring the outdoors and working towards making more conscious lifestyle decisions that will positively impact our community and environment.

Stefanie Yen

Stefanie is an undergraduate at The University of Hong Kong, majoring in Food and Nutritional Science. She is interested in dietary habits in children. She is involved in the evidence-based research for the Play&Grow Programme.