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What are the differential impacts on childhood obesity associated with school closures in response to Covid-19?

Department of Applied Health Research

Dr J Sheringham Friday, June 19, 2020 Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Deadline: 19th June 2020
Interview: Late June 2020
Duration: 3 years, commencing October 2020
Stipend: £17,803

NIHR ARC North Thames and the NIHR SPHR invite applications for its jointly-funded 3-year PhD studentship to begin September 2020. Supervisors are drawn from across both the NIHR ARC North Thames and NIHR SPHR. This collaborative initiative allows unparalleled access to leading applied and public health experts, supervisors who are leaders in their field, channels for dissemination of research, participation in bespoke training, and a strong network and community of graduate students and researchers.

NIHR ARC North Thames

NIHR ARC North Thames is a research partnership committed to identifying the health and care problems that most concern everyone in our region, designing innovative research in response and then quickly putting findings into practice. Led by Professor Rosalind Raine (UCL), the ARC is a collaboration of 50+ partners including universities, NHS trusts, local authorities, clinical commissioning groups, UCLPartners, patient/public organisations and industry.

NIHR School for Public Health Research (SPHR)

The NIHR School for Public Health Research (SPHR) ( is a unique collaboration between leading academic centres in England. Established in 2012, NIHR SPHR aims to conduct high quality research to build the evidence base for effective public health practice. Our research looks at what works practically to improve population health and reduce health inequalities, can be applied across the country, and better meets the needs of policymakers, practitioners and the public.

Project Description

There is concern about the effects of school closures on children’s cognitive and psychological outcomes. School also play a role in obesity prevention, e.g. through active travel to/from school, provision of free/subsidised healthy food, and provision of PE. It is not known how school closures would impact on children in different circumstances.

This ARC/SPHR PhD allied with ActEarly/Born in Bradford would seek understand what influences trajectories of BMI amongst school children post-COVID school closures. The PhD would include:
- A national ecological study on associations between school closures and BMI using publicly available data concerning potential determinants - e.g. Index of Multiple Deprivation, rural/urban status, area-level ethnicity profiles, small area obesity prevalence - and childhood obesity using National Child Measurement Programme at MSOA level, from 2020-2021. This would be hypothesis generating and would also enable establishment/development of methods for examining medium/long term trajectories in childhood BMI following Covid-19.
- An individual-level study using Born in Bradford data to examine factors affecting association between school closures and BMI. Note, there are also quantitative and qualitative survey data collected in Bradford on 8000+ individuals during lockdown that could provide additional context.
- Appropriate literature reviews e.g. associations between childhood BMI and school attendance/planned and unforeseen school absences.
This PhD would enable the student to develop methods expertise in secondary analysis of quantitative data. Potential implications for policy and practice include: informing targeting/prioritisation of strategies to mitigate effects on childhood obesity, informing future decisions on school closures.


• Candidates should hold a Master’s in a relevant discipline (or complete their Master’s by September 2020) and have a minimum of a 2:1 or equivalent in their first degree.
• All applicants require excellent written and verbal communication skills and should be willing to work collaboratively in multi-disciplinary and multi-professional teams.
• Due to funding restrictions, applicants must be UK/EU nationals. Please see UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA - for criteria.
• Applicants should preferably have knowledge of the UK health and care system.

How to apply

Your application should consist of:
• A CV (qualifications, work experience, publications, presentations and prizes) & contact details of two academic referees.
• A personal statement (300 words) describing your suitability for the proposed project including how your research experience, skills and interests relate to the topic.
• A 1-page proposal of how you would develop the PhD project that you are applying for.

For applications and enquiries, please email

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