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One in five young people enter adolescence already defined as obese and excess weight often tracks into later life, with evidence of cardiometabolic damage evident by early adulthood. However, interventions to help young people and families reduce BMI z-score are fairly ineffective. We all agree that we need more effective population-level interventions to help children and adults to maintain a healthy weight, but we also need to consider whether and how we help young people who are already obese to manage their weight.

We have an extensive programme of research on adult weight management and are particularly focused on low intensity interventions for weight management in everyday contexts. We want to examine whether we should extend this approach to young people. The doctoral research will centre around an app to support young people to manage their weight. The key components comprise:

  1. Is it possible to recruit young people into a weight loss programme through GPs and other health professionals, through letters to parents from the National Childhood Measurement Programme (https://digital.nhs.uk/services/national-child-measurement-programme/), or through advertisements in the community?
  2. How do parents, young people, and the various actors involved in the recruitment of children respond to offers of the weight loss programme and what explains their responses?
  3. What is the public discourse on weight loss programmes for young people? What opportunities are there for addressing this discourse? Can weight loss programmes ever be acceptable in our society?  
  4. Building on these earlier studies, the student will run a feasibility study with embedded process evaluation of an app-based intervention. Then project will assess uptake, engagement with the programme, and impacts on diet, physical activity and weight, and mental wellbeing. 

Funded jointly by Wolfson College and the NIHR OxTV Applied Research Collaboration (ARC), the studentship covers home-status fees. The studentship stipend is £18,000/year. In addition, there is generous funding for research expenses and training, with opportunity to present your research at conferences.

The project will suit a student with an excellent academic track record including a relevant masters degree, training in nutrition, physical activity, behaviour change or health or social sciences and working knowledge of both quantitative and qualitative research methods. Prior experience in working with patients or the public would be an advantage.

The student would be based within the ARC group on Changing Behaviours for Better Health and Preventing Disease, which focuses on diet and obesity, and become part of the expanding Health Behaviours team https://www.phc.ox.ac.uk/research/research-themes/health-behaviours-theme/health-behaviours. We offer a rich interdisciplinary experience, with access to training and professional development activities, such as public engagement, in a happy and scholarly environment. The student will become a member of Wolfson College https://www.wolfson.ox.ac.uk/. Wolfson is a democratic and egalitarian college providing excellent accommodation, sports facilities, and opportunities for socialising.

Supervisors:

Funding:

Funded jointly by Wolfson College and the NIHR OxTV Applied Research Collaboration (ARC).