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Supervisors: Dr Rachel Pechey; Professor Susan Jebb

The government ambition is to increase healthy life expectancy in England by at least 5 years by 2035, while also reducing the gap in life expectancy between the richest and the poorest groups. Two-thirds of adults in the UK are overweight, and unhealthy diets are one of the leading risk factors for ill-health. People with a low socio-economic position (SEP) have poorer diets, for example, consuming more sugar-sweetened beverages and less fruits and vegetables, which contributes to health inequalities.

Interventions in online and physical grocery stores offer the opportunity to shape purchasing behaviours towards healthier diets.  Recent research on food purchasing interventions has identified some promising strategies at a population level, such as removing less healthy items from prominent locations or increasing the availability of healthier options, but differences in the acceptability and effectiveness of these actions across SEP are largely unknown. In particular, little focus has been placed on affordability in relation to these interventions, such as their impact in those who are food insecure.

This project aims to contribute to the field by:

  1. Conduct experimental studies using a virtual online supermarket to study the responses of individuals of different SEP to different nudge-style interventions
  2. Where possible, collaborate with retailers to design and test nudge-style interventions in cafeterias/restaurants or in stores (building on existing partnerships with the University) or using loyalty card data, examining effectiveness by indicators of store-level and/or individual-level SEP
  3. Or, using digital technologies (e.g. smartphone app) to test the effectiveness of individual-level interventions to support healthier food choices (e.g. labelling, healthier swaps) across SEP
  4. Explore the drivers of the food choices of food insecure individuals through in-depth qualitative analysis

This project will suit someone with some experience or training in study design and statistical analysis, and who is interested in diet and health inequalities. The project will provide training in designing and evaluating experimental studies and trials of interventions, as well as qualitative analysis, building collaborations, and public health policy.