Uncategorised / Thursday, 12 May, 2016

Is the environment conspiring against us to make us fat?

Michelle Morris
Director of the ESRC Strategic Network for Obesity

Overweight and Obesity are a huge problem worldwide. The cost to the UK NHS is £5.1 billion annually with £11.5 billion annual cost to wider society. This does not account for the significantly reduced health related quality of life for overweight or obese individuals. Overweight and obesity are also closely associated with type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers, which place further burden on individuals and society. It is a serious situation and one which is not going away quickly.

So what causes overweight and obesity? In the simplest terms they are a result of eating too much and not moving enough. However, in the real world of everyday life it is a much more complex and multifaceted relationship. Sometimes it feels like our environment conspires against any best laid plans to improve diet and increase physical activity, thus reducing or preventing incidence of overweight and obesity. Imagine these scenarios:

I think most of us can relate to all of these scenarios. Ultimately as an individual we make the choices but often we may feel like there are a number of other people, situations or organisations at fault. This is why to better understand and ultimately tackle overweight and obesity many different types of organisations need to come together. In an era of growing volumes of data on all aspects of human behaviours it is timely to bring big data analytics into the forefront of obesity research.

It is exactly this that the ESRC Strategic Network for Obesity is trying to achieve. This international network brings together experts from many disciplines within and beyond academia to explore how we can use data about us and our environment to table overweight and obesity. How can we improve the environment so that it is easier to be physically active and eat well than it is to jump in the car and nip to a take-away? Hopefully we can find answers to this question through our network meetings and related activity.


By Michelle Morris, University Academic Fellow. Twitter: @drshellm  @obesity_network.

This blog was originally posted on the University of Leeds – CSAP Blog.