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Applied Obesity

 

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Recent Impact

Centre Overview

Our Centre aims to improve the understanding of the development of obesity, including the associated comorbidities (CVD and type 2 diabetes) and psychosocial conditions to identify effective preventative and management approaches.

The Centre is unique in applying a multidisciplinary approach to the study of obesity. It integrates community-based programmes aimed the prevention and management of obesity with strengths in nutrition, dietetics, physical activity, psychology, epidemiology, public health and is also involved in undergraduate, postgraduate and professional training and education. Through this integration, we have expertise to enhance the implementation, effectiveness and scalability of programmes within real world settings.

We develop novel, bespoke approaches to research that are at the forefront of obesity related work. We have vast expertise, experience and a track record of delivering high-impact research and consultation that draws on our scientific and applied competencies. In doing so, our research and consultancy has led to many real world impacts that have improved the understanding, prevention and treatment of obesity.

The Centre has several objectives:

  • The development, implementation and evaluation of novel, community-based prevention and treatment approaches to inform practice and policy.
  • Understanding the physiological, psychosocial and behavioural determinants that contribute to obesity and its complications in adults and children in differing socioeconomic and ethnic groups.
  • Delivery and evaluation of nutrition and exercise interventions across the life-course, in all communities.
  • Implementation of motivational strategies for a healthier lifestyle.
  • Training and education to support delivery of effective obesity prevention and management programmes and services.

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Research Themes

Prevention and Management

Child and adult obesity is a major public health concern and in the UK nearly a third of children aged 2-15 years who are overweight or have obesity. The impact of childhood obesity on health both in the short and long term is well documented and an increased risk of obesity in adulthood means a greater chance of developing chronic illnesses. The aim of this research theme is to improve our understanding of childhood and adult obesity risk factors and to work collaboratively to develop tailored interventions aimed at reducing childhood and adult obesity risk and evaluate in “real world settings”.

Obesity Environment

Environmental influences on public health have become a major area of investigation with research demonstrating links between the environment and increased prevalence of non-communicable disease. The term ‘obesogenic’ is commonly used to describe environments that hinder physical activity and promote excessive food consumption, thereby making obesity more likely. Our research group believes that a better understanding of this complex and methodologically challenging subject area is necessary in order to identify the actual role of the environment in the prevention and treatment of obesity.

Weight Stigma and Discrimination

Despite rapidly increasing evidence that demonstrates the detrimental effects of weight stigma and discrimination, there has been relatively few efforts to intervene. The aim of research within the theme is to examine the effects of weight stigma, and to develop novel, impactful weight stigma interventions to reduce bias. We aim to achieve this through innovative research with partners from education, workplaces, healthcare, mass media, families, and people across the lifespan.

Whole Systems Approaches to Obesity

The aim of the whole systems approach research group is to advance the application of whole system approaches to obesity, using participatory techniques and supporting guidance material to determine how a whole system approach can effectively be developed, delivered and evaluated locally. This programme of research will also determine the current landscape around obesity at the local level – the pre-systems analysis. Projects that we are conducting within this theme include the Public Health England funded Whole Systems Approaches to obesity, and the Suffolk County Council funded Integrated Health Service.

Partners

Internally, we have strong collaborations with a range of research centres and schools including the Centre for Active Lifestyles where there are an array of projects relating to the impact of physical activity on weight management; the School of Computing, Creative Technologies and Engineering where we have projects examining the use of technological platforms to deliver weight management programmes; and the School of Built Environment and Engineering where we are collaborating to study the impact of the environment on food and physical activity behaviours.

Externally, we have strong links with Public Health England contributing to an array of work related to obesity, in particular the systems thinking on obesity. This project is led by Professor Paul Gately, engaging local authorities from across England to develop a systems-based approach to obesity. We also have strong links with the Association for the Study of Obesity via Professor Pinki Sahota the current chair of the organisation, and with Suffolk County Council where we are leading a collaboration with MoreLife Ltd, Quit51 and Healthier Futures to deliver an integrated public health service across the county. The research and evaluation of the Suffolk County Council work is led by Dr Stuart Flint and Dr Claire Griffiths who have developed partnerships with a range of organisations across Suffolk to design and develop innovative projects that benefit people across the county.