Obesity Environment

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.
Nutrition students
The exterior of the Rose Bowl main entrance, showing the triangles around the bowl

Research theme Focus

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. The environment-obesity relationship is often oversimplified, focussing only on small numbers of environmental attributes such as the availability of food outlets or green spaces, and using simplistic measures such as proximity to amenities.

The underlying mechanisms of an obesogenic environment are likely to be far more complex, with a wide range of factors operating and interacting across different domains (the physical, social, economic and political) that act at micro- and macro-levels. Researchers in this field also face a myriad of methodological choices, which have substantial consequences for the interpretation of outputs. 

Areas of research

  • 'Big data'
  • Food environment
  • Geographic Information Systems methods
  • Methodological reporting frameworks
  • Child weight management
  • Adult weight management
  • Physical activity environment
  • Places of interest: workplace, schools, communities

Ongoing Research

  • The role of person and place characteristics in predicting weight management programme attendance and effectiveness
  • Physical activity and the built environment
  • Validation of two secondary sources of food environment data against street audits in England
  • Systematic review of methods for investigating links between the retail food environment, diet and obesity
  • Examining the impact of different methods of measuring the food environment on substantive outcomes
  • Examining the influence of the food environment around the workplace on diet and obesity
  • Person-environment relationship and its effect on health-related practices
  • The contribution of food environment on obesity in England


  1. ESRC: Secondary Data Analysis Initiative 2017

    £200k (18-month project). Handling missing data in large linked datasets.
  2. ESRC: Secondary Data Analysis Initiative 2017

    £200k (18-month project). CATCH - Investigating the Causal relationships between ATtainment and Childhood Health. Under Review.