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Effect of school-based education programme to reduce the intake of salt, sugar, saturated fat, and calories in children and their families: cluster randomised controlled trial

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Thursday, January 02, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Applications are invited from graduates with a BSc (First or Upper Second) or MSc (Distinction), or equivalent, to work within the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine. This 3 year studentship will commence in Spring 2020 and will be based at the Charterhouse Square Campus. This is an exciting opportunity for a graduate from disciplines related to epidemiology, statistics, and behavioural sciences.

Project Description

Dietary risk factors are major contributors to cardiovascular disease (CVD), the leading cause of deaths and disabilities in the UK. Initiating prevention activities in children has great long-term potential to reduce CVD.

We propose a novel approach consisting of educating schoolchildren and empowering them to educate their families to reduce their intake of salt, sugar, saturated fat, and calories. Primary schoolchildren and their adult family members will be recruited. Following the design of a cluster randomised controlled trial, schools will be randomised to either the intervention or control group. Food intake, anthropometric measurements, blood pressure, as well as knowledge, attitudes, and practices towards salt, sugar, saturated fat, and calories will be assessed at baseline, midway through the intervention, and again at the end of the intervention. The intervention will last for one school year and will consist of dietary education (for the children and for their families) and improving the nutritional quality of school meals.
Linear mixed models with participants nested within family units, and families nested within school units, will be used to determine the effect of the intervention on changes in children’s and adults’ dietary intakes of salt, sugar, saturated fat, and calories (i.e., primary outcome) as well as in their blood pressure, body weight, waist-hip circumference, and knowledge, attitudes, and practices related to salt, sugar, saturated fat, and calories (i.e., secondary outcomes).

The timeline for the proposed project is as follows:

Year 1:

• literature review
• knowledge/skills training
• writing-up of a proposal and study protocol (including data analysis plan)
• ethical approval and R&D approval
• liaising with school head teachers
• developing the intervention in collaboration with school head teachers, teachers, catering staff
• preparing education materials



Year 2:

• baseline data collection
• intervention implementation
• ensuring smooth running of the intervention

Year 3:

• end-of-trial data collection
• data cleaning
• data analysis
• thesis writing-up

Qualifications and skills

Applications are invited from graduates in nutrition, public health, epidemiology, or other relevant social science and health (First or Upper Second). Good communications skills in English are essential.
The successful candidate should be pro-active, insightful, with excellent organisation skills, and able to use his/her initiative, as well as working in a team.

Research training

The successful candidate will work closely with Prof Feng He and Prof Graham MacGregor in a multi-disciplinary environment, with a focus on evidence-based approaches to improve public health.
The candidate will gain extensive and comprehensive knowledge and research experiences in developing and implementing strategies in reductions of salt, sugar and saturated fat, and building capacity and capability to develop, implement and evaluate public health policies.
More specifically, the candidate will acquire skills in research project design, protocol development & implementation, project management, quantitative and qualitative data analysis, and research dissemination, while also enhancing their knowledge on diet and health, and the strategies to improve the diet, e.g., reduce salt, sugar and saturated fat consumption for the prevention of non-communicable diseases.

Informal enquiries can be made to via email: Professor Feng He,

Your application should consist of a CV and contact details of two academic referees. You must also include a personal statement (1,000 words maximum) describing your suitability for the selected project including how your research experience and interests relate to the project.

Please submit your application to: Patrick Mullan ().

Funding Notes

This 3 year PhD studentship is funded by the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine and comes with a tax-free stipend of £21,000. It is open to UK Nationals, EEA/Swiss migrant workers and non-UK nationals with indefinite leave to remain in the UK who will have three years ordinary residence in the EU prior to the start of the studentship. University tuition fees (at UK/EU levels) will be met by the Institute.

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