School of Health

Tackling obesity in partnership

Nicola Corrigan is a health and wellbeing programme lead working for the Office of Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) in the Yorkshire and Humber regional team, and is a lead partner in the Yorkshire and Humber Obesity Research Alliance (YORA) and Yorkshire and Humber Physical Activity Knowledge Exchange. 

Nicola Corrigan stands in a sunny garden

Previously named Public Health England (PHE), OHID is now part of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). Nicola and her team work to promote wellbeing, to address inequalities in health, and to look at the prevention of ill health.

Nicola is also a member of the Obesity Institute Patient and Public Involvement steering committee.

 

What led to your organisation partnering with the Leeds Beckett University School of Health?

YORA started with Cath Homer, at Sheffield Hallam, and Louisa Ells, from Leeds Beckett. It was in response to the folding of the Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research Healthy Weight Network about two years ago. We wanted to continue meeting with practitioners and academics, to bring them together around the area of obesity and healthy weight to improve practices understanding of research, but also improve researchers’ targeting of academic studies to help inform practice. 

This coincided with Louisa Ells coming to Leeds Beckett, and the three of us thought we should establish YORA. We applied for some funding from the Clinical Research Network and two years later we finally find ourselves with this fantastic partnership, that straddles practice, research, people living with obesity, health, social care, food partnerships, a whole range of stakeholders coming together to talk about how we can advance practice and research in this area.

 

It’s always been a pleasure to work with Leeds Beckett. The students are fab, and the academics are really dedicated. It’s been a happy partnership.

Nicola Corrigan

What does the School of Health bring to this partnership?

Our partnership with Leeds Beckett brings us that partnership with a respected organisation within the region. We had previously started a physical activity research alliance called YoHPAKE, it’s our knowledge exchange, and we started that with Leeds Beckett and other regional partners as well. 

From the partnership with YORA, I think one of the really positive things has been getting the funding and getting the alliance up and running. Also, having a series of sandpits, which brought together practice and research to really understand the four topic areas that we focus on, which has meant that I’ve been working with academics and partners from across the region I might not have worked with ordinarily. 

As far as YoHPAKE is concerned, until we had lockdown two years ago, we used to have an annual conference where we’d pull together 150 people in a room talking about physical activity, and Leeds Beckett was central in getting that off the ground.

We’ve had a lot of support from the senior leadership team within the university. And I think that’s been the case for both of these partnerships with Leeds Beckett – the senior leadership are very supportive of developing those partnerships. There’s a lot of flexibility and they’re willing to put themselves out there a little bit more, to be those lead partners.

It’s always been a pleasure to work with Leeds Beckett. The students are fab, and the academics are really dedicated. It’s been a happy partnership.

We’re always treated as an equal part of the partnership. It’s one of the strongest places I’ve ever been working with for public and patient involvement as well. There’s never a feeling that there’s academic study being done for academic sake. It’s always to advance improvements in people’s lives.

 

It’s practice, research, policy continuum that we’ve always got to keep feeding, because it’s always got to keep moving forward and we’ve got to keep developing it. Because nothing’s ever static, and we’ve got to keep improving.

Nicola Corrigan

What are the impacts of the partnership in the real world?

We work in policy and policy implementation, and sometimes we have good policy and other times we have policy that’s not quite as effective in real life as it looks on paper, and I think the partnerships that we have with Leeds Beckett allow us to test out whether some of those policies work and what tweaks we need to have done. We can come up with some really good ideas of where future policy might go.

For example, I’m the workstream lead for the Weight Management Strategies workstream in YORA and we’ve got two projects we are currently working on. One is about peer support for people living with obesity, and what that would look like, and the other one is for information to achieve and maintain weight loss, and we’re looking at how body imaging can help people achieve and maintain weight loss, and how some of those ideas and some of those pieces of information can be shared. Also how people want to be told how they’re achieving their weight loss.

Now that’s a tricky thing to do, and that’s never been done before. So, it’s enabling us, with these partnerships, to be able to test out new theories in supportive environments. And we’ve got a really strong networks in Yorkshire and Humber, so there’s a willingness to collaborate right across the board, and I think Leeds Beckett is really at the forefront of that.

It’s practice, research, policy continuum that we’ve always got to keep feeding, because it’s always got to keep moving forward and we’ve got to keep developing it. Because nothing’s ever static, and we’ve got to keep improving.

We’re a science-based organisation and we have to look at the evidence, but the evidence base is always changing. We’ve got to keep up with it.
One of the things I’ve always valued is the willingness for Leeds Beckett to reach out and develop itself. It’s never wanted to stay static, and it’s always welcomed challenge to areas of research it’s doing. Its research is real world, very much so.

How would you like to see the partnership grow and develop?

I’d like the partnerships to build the reputation for getting international levels of funding to do practice and research and really start to do some innovative work, particularly in the area of obesity, so we can look towards maybe the built environment, maybe legislation, having test beds across Yorkshire and Humber around local taxation of unhealthy foods. 

Thera are some really innovative opportunities. I’d like to see us move towards some of the more environmental pieces of work which would then bring in other academics, perhaps not thinking about the obesity agenda right now, perhaps thinking about built environment, natural environment or even commercial determinants of health and how we address some of the inequalities that we face in that area.

 

Find out more about our work to tackle obesity

Obesity Institute

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