Harnessing data from the National Child Development Survey to model the spatial and longitudinal trends in obesity in the UK

The public health problem of obesity and morbid obesity is one of the concerns and topics of research in the UK.

Obesity increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, some cancers, and Type 2 Diabetes. Promotion of healthy behaviours via public health policy is an important avenue for public health intervention. In particular, obesity has been linked to take root in childhood years in many cases, and to be linked to deprivation and families.

This project will provide:

  • information to policymakers regarding obesity with quantified impacts of key variables 
  • new quantitative methodologies to public health researchers (iii) inform the decision process in the debate on the banning of multibuy snacks, on national policy on food price regulation and on advertising especially in relation to food targeted to young children. These would be useful to assess the impact of (and design) better policies as interventions.   

Traditionally the impact of interventions has been measured by monitoring changes in certain indicators (e.g., weight=70Kg). These are measured by capturing a snapshot of the variable at a specific point in time, which is then analysed using mathematical models that quantify intervention impact. There is a unique opportunity to improve this approach by making it more data rich. New technologies have made the collection of longitudinal data easier, making it possible to know the change of a variable over time or its “trajectory”.  In addition, the geographic location, such as the Council associated with a participant, is an important dimension to include. This project will develop data and models to use this new data structure (to analyse trajectories in space and time), providing more information and thus more precision to model obesity in the UK and provide evidence to inform debates such as the proposed banning of multibuy snacks and the advertisement of soft drinks.  

Funded by Challenge Investment Fund.