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Tracking developments in obesity research, practice and policy after the COVID-19pandemic: Insights from behavioural science

Department of Psychology

About the Project

The Foresight report (2007) brought attention to the pressing need to address wide-ranging factors that contribute to the development and maintenance of obesity. Since then, the concept of obesity as a chronic, multi-faceted health condition has emerged in research but not in practice or policy, which still largely considers obesity to be a result of individual
lifestyle choice.

During the COVID-19 outbreak, evidence strongly suggested that obesity was a key risk factor for COVID-19 complications, including hospitalisation and ventilation (Lighter et al.,2020). Accordingly, the government published an emergency policy paper on tackling
obesity, which advised those living with obesity to lose weight. Although these guidelines also tackled other aspects of addressing the condition, such as food labelling and banning high-calorie food to children, behavioural scientists called for a much greater focus on the development of a long-term, psychologically informed strategy, which would account for a
range of other important influences on behaviour such as weight stigma, social support,
food availability and mental health.

The BPS Obesity Task and Finish Group produced a detailed report on psychological perspectives on obesity in 2019 to address some of the perceived limitations in the current field. The recommendations made are currently being updated to encompass the
developments during the COVID-19 pandemic and will prove useful for directing future efforts in addressing this important public health issue. In the current context, it is clear that such detailed information is required by the government to guide the development of
interventions that are innovative and responsive to the needs of people living with obesity as they recover from the crisis.

This PhD will track the developments in obesity research, practice and policy during and after the COVID-19 pandemic to develop post-pandemic psychologically-informed behaviour change interventions to support people living with obesity.

Funding Notes

Self funded or externally sponsored students only. Intakes are usually October and March annually.

NB The University has some scholarships under competition each year. More details can be found - View Website


BPS Obesity Task and Finish Group. Psychological Perspectives on Obesity: Addressing Policy, Practice, and Research Priorities. Published 24 September 2019. Available at:

Department of health and social care: Policy paper. Tackling obesity: empowering adults and children to live healthier lives. Published 27 July 2020. Available at:

Government office for science: Research and analysis. Reducing obesity: future choices. Published 17 October 2007. Available at:

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