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Applied Obesity

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.
Barry Cullen

Research Themes

Life Course and Community Approaches

Research within this theme aims to improve our understanding of childhood obesity risk factors and to work collaboratively to develop and evaluate early life interventions that aim to reduce childhood obesity risk through prevention and/or treatment. We aim to achieve this by working closely with local authorities, health services, community organisations, education and childcare settings, and families. Projects that we are conducting within this theme include the National Institute for Health Research funded Born in Bradford which is an internationally recognised cohort study, and the Big Lottery funded Better Start Bradford programme.

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.

Weight Management

Research examining the impact of weight management services has increased over time, and this has continued to be a research theme for our academics. The aim of this research is to develop and deliver novel interventions that increase the uptake and success of weight management programmes for both adults and children. Working in collaboration with MoreLife Ltd, we conduct research with local authorities across England to support the prevention and treatment of obesity.

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.