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We are looking for an outstanding individual to adpply for a DPhil (PhD) opportunity at the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford. This studentship is funded through the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) Oxford and Thames Valley, which supports applied health research and research on implementation of health and care evidence into day-to-day practice. We are offering a studentship focussed on health economic aspects of childhood obesity.

Approximately 380 million children worldwide are estimated to be overweight or obese.In England, approximately one in five children are obese by the time they enter adolescence and excess weight tracks into adulthood.  Being overweight is associated with significant negative consequences for children's physical health, social and emotional well-being, self-esteem, academic performance and health-related quality of life. The economic consequences of excess weight in childhood are less well understood, but limited evidence suggests that it may result in significantly increased costs to health services, other sectors of the economy and to individuals.2 Given finite public resources, it’s important to assess the cost-effectiveness of interventions to prevent or treat obesity. However, one of the challenges in conducting economic evaluations in this area is the paucity of data on the economic consequences of excess weight through various stages of childhood, adolescence and beyond.

This DPhil project would aim to enhance knowledge about the economic consequences of excess weight in childhood and to develop an economic framework for assessing the cost-effectiveness of interventions aimed at its prevention or the alleviation of its effects. The DPhil Project would involve:

  • Conducting a literature review of economic aspects of childhood obesity, which will cover evidence on resource use, costs, health utilities (preference-based health-related quality of life outcomes) and cost-effectiveness of intervention strategies.
  • Primary research on the economic consequences of childhood obesity, based on evidence from QResearch, the UK’s largest anonymised medical research database that includes patient linked primary care and hospital records tracked over the past 25 years.
  • Development of a UK micro-simulation model for body weight in childhood and later health and economic outcomes. The model will be informed by clinical, epidemiological and economic data extracted from the QResearch database, data from external longitudinal and cross-sectional studies and data from the literature. It will ultimately be used as a standardised economic evaluation framework to aid the decisions of health care decision-makers in the UK when allocating resources in this area.

While the overarching areas for study have been identified, there is scope for specific related questions to be identified by the candidate. We would welcome anyone interested to approach us to discuss the project with us.

The candidate will join a team of researchers specialising in health economics, epidemiology and behavioural interventions working collaboratively across the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences. We offer a rich interdisciplinary experience, with access to training and professional development activities, such as public engagement, in a happy and scholarly environment. 


  1. World Health Organization. Obesity and overweight key facts Geneva, Switzerland 2018. Available from:
  2. Cawley J. The economics of childhood obesity. Health Affairs 2010; 29(3): 364-371.


Supervision and research environment

 The successful candidate will be co-supervised by Professor Stavros Petrou (health economics), Professor Julia Hippisley-Cox (clinical epidemiology) and Professor Susan Jebb (diet and population health), all based at the University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences (NDPCHS). Co-supervision will also be provided by Dr Alison Hayes from the University of Sydney who has specialised in health economic modelling of obesity. The successful candidate will be based at the NDPCHS, which is the UK’s top ranked centre for academic primary care. We offer a rich interdisciplinary experience, with access to training and professional development activities, such as public engagement, in a happy and scholarly environment. NDPCHS houses a growing group of health economists working across a diverse portfolio of research and teaching programmes. The successful candidate will become a member of one of the University’s 39 colleges.

NDPCHS holds a departmental Silver Athena SWAN award to recognise advancement of gender equality: representation, progression and success for all.  Our staff and DPhil students are mostly located in the superbly renovated Grade II listed Radcliffe Primary Care Building on the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter (ROQ), the University’s most prestigious development site for a generation, and close to the city centre (see for more information).


The award

The award will cover university and college fees at the UK/EU rate plus a maintenance stipend for three years (£16,000 in 2020/21).  Non-EU/UK students will be expected to meet the cost of the difference between the UK/EU rate and the International (non-EU) rate for academic fees. In addition, funding of up to £1,000 per year will be provided to support training costs, for example, conference attendances. The studentship is expected to commence in October 2020.


Eligibility criteria

To register for this DPhil degree, the ideal candidate will have a strong first degree in economics or one of its cognate disciplines. They will also have (or be about to complete) a master’s degree in health economics or a specialisation within economics, or a closely related quantitative subject. A strong quantitative skill set is essential. If English is not your first language, the department requires a minimum score on the IELTS test of 7.5 (with at least 7.0 in each component) or a minimum score of 110 on the internet-based TOEFL.


Process for application

 Applications should be submitted by 12 noon on 19th June 2020. Applications must be made through the University of Oxford’s online system ( Under intended funding source, please enter National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) Oxford and Thames Valley. Under proposed project, please enter health economic aspects of childhood obesity. Under supervisors, please enter Professor Stavros Petrou, Professor Julia Hippisley-Cox and Professor Susan Jebb. The university’s application process requires a project outline. For this particular studentship you are only required to submit up to 1000 words in PDF format.



Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed (by ZOOM). Interviews will take place in late June. At interview, candidates will be expected to give a short presentation on their proposed project including relevant literature, potential data sources and applicable methods. It should also focus on the skills they would bring to their doctoral research. 

 Informal enquiries should be addressed to Professor Stavros Petrou: