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Research Case studies

Childhood Obesity


Dr Claire Griffiths has a background in obesity management and formerly developed and delivered weight management programmes to overweight and obese children and families in both residential and community settings.

In her current role she teaches at both undergraduate and postgraduate level in the areas of obesity management, physical activity and research methods. Dr Griffiths is also actively engaged in research activities within the Carnegie Faculty’s Institute for Sport, Physical Activity and Leisure.

Claire's doctoral research, funded by Leeds Beckett University and supervised by Professor Paul Gately, Dr Paul Marchant and Professor Carlton Cooke, investigated the prevalence of obesity considering important demographic factors such as deprivation, ethnicity and educational attainment. 

In February 2013, Dr Griffiths had a study, published in The International Journal of Obesity, which suggested that the relationship between obesity and deprivation is not the highest in more deprived groups. These findings are contrary to the 'deprivation theory' and question current understanding and interpretation of the relationship between deprivation and obesity in children.

The study, led by Claire, alongside childhood obesity expert Professor Paul Gately, Dr Paul Marchant and Professor Carlton Cooke, investigated the relationship between obesity and area level deprivation, based on where a child lives, in 13,333 Leeds school children over three years. Results showed that children living in the middle-affluent areas had the greatest probability of being obese according to all measures of obesity, with this relationship being more marked in girls.

Childhood Obesity YouTube video

The study took a local level approach and used an area level measure of deprivation (based on the child's residential postcode) which is novel in the context of obesity studies. The large sample size covering the whole city of Leeds, the reliability of the data (one person took all measurements) and sophisticated statistical analysis techniques provide confidence in the data reported and may also help explain the findings.

Speaking about the results Dr Griffiths commented: "Although the prevalence of obesity is higher than desirable across the whole city, it appears that children living in the most deprived and most affluent areas of the city are at the lowest risk, with boys and girls following different patterns. These results could help make informed decisions at the local level including the allocation of health promotion resources. This is especially important now in the light of the recently enhanced role for local governments and authorities with an increased focus on locally-led action in the UK to tackle childhood obesity."

The study was a collaboration between Leeds Beckett University, Leeds City Council and the Education Authority.

young children learning about nutrition

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