Global Business School for Health


Person-centred Systems Innovation for Health Equity in the Context of Healthy Weight Management

18 June 2024

On April 9, 2024, UCL's GBSH hosted a workshop on "Person-centred Systems Innovation for Health Equity." Organised by Dr. Marzena Nieroda and team, it fostered interdisciplinary collaboration to integrate lived experiences into healthy weight management research and projects.



On April 9, 2024, the Global Business School for Health at University College London (UCL) hosted a workshop titled "Person-centred Systems Innovation for Health Equity: Fostering Collaboration to Support Co-creation of Lived Experiences for Healthy Weight Management." Organized by Dr. Marzena NierodaDr. Julie LaniganDr. Nicky KeayProfessor Joyce Harper, and Professor Tara Keck, the workshop aimed to enhance interdisciplinary collaboration at UCL and integrate lived experiences into various research and commercial projects to create a broader societal impact, particularly in promoting healthy weight management. The project was funded by the Innovation and Enterprise Faculty Innovation Fund at UCL.

Presentations from Guest Speakers

The workshop featured seven guest speakers from academia and industry, each sharing their perspectives on healthy weight management.

Dr. Julie Lanigan, Associate Professor (Hon) at the Childhood Nutrition Research Centre, UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, began with a presentation on preventing overweight and obesity in childhood. She emphasized that childhood obesity often starts in early childhood and is influenced by a mix of developmental, genetic, and environmental factors. Dr. Lanigan advocated for whole-system approaches to prevention, targeting high-risk individuals and considering prevention strategies. She gave the example of 'Planet Munch,' a co-created healthy lifestyle programme designed to prevent excess weight gain in preschool children and their families.

Dr. Nicky Keay, Honorary Clinical Lecturer at the Division of Medicine, UCL, explored obesity through the lens of hormones. She discussed how 'epigenetic tuning' occurs in the womb pre-birth, determining prenatal programming. Dr. Keay highlighted that an individual’s endocrine phenotype, resulting from this epigenetic tuning, can lead to either an environment match or mismatch, subsequently influencing health outcomes. She also explained how hormones like ghrelin and leptin regulate hunger and satiety, and how circadian misalignment and energy imbalances contribute to obesity and other health issues. Dr. Keay underscored the importance of matching energy intake with energy demand to maintain optimal health.

Professor Joyce Harper, a Professor of Reproductive Science at UCL, linked reproductive health and fertility education to weight management. She highlighted the importance of maintaining a healthy body weight, balanced diet, and regular exercise for fertility in both men and women. Professor Harper called for greater emphasis on pre-conception health education to positively impact long-term health and fertility outcomes.

Professor Tara Keck, Professor of Neuroscience at UCL, addressed the intertwined relationship between mental health and weight management. She noted that obesity and mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, often coexist and influence each other. Professor Keck emphasized the need for a joined-up approach to healthcare, integrating mental health and community support to improve weight management outcomes.

Tim Copley, Director of Physical Activity & Sport Development at London Sport, discussed systemic approaches to tackling inactivity. He pointed out the significant impact of socioeconomic disparities on physical activity levels and advocated for a multi-level approach, from national advocacy to local interventions. Copley emphasized the importance of creating environments that encourage physical activity, particularly in deprived communities.

Vernon Bainton, Chief Medical Officer at Havas Lynx Group, presented case studies on system thinking. He highlighted the All.Can initiative, which aims to make cancer care sustainable through public debate and resource allocation. Bainton also shared a provocative advertising campaign developed for NHS Greater Manchester to raise awareness of childhood obesity, illustrating the power of public engagement in driving system change.

Catalina Cernica, Director and Co-Founder of The Health and Happiness Lab, concluded the presentations by discussing the impact of chronic diseases on quality of life. She introduced the PsoHappy platform, which measures the impact of psoriasis on patient happiness and quality of life. Cernica's work underscored the importance of addressing wellbeing inequalities to improve health outcomes.

Group Sessions

Following the presentations, participants engaged in group discussions to address key questions about future collaborations and objectives. These sessions revealed several insights.

Participants identified key external stakeholders for collaboration, including industry partners such as pharmaceutical companies, food producers, and health technology firms. Policy makers, healthcare organizations, patient groups, and professional co-designers were also highlighted as essential collaborators.

The groups outlined objectives for future collaborations, emphasizing the need to change the discourse on weight management to a system-wide approach. Securing sustainable funding for preventive health measures and translating academic expertise into practical interventions were also prioritized. Additionally, developing a comprehensive map of the system, identifying key actors, behaviours, and gaps in provision, was deemed crucial.

The discussions also highlighted both opportunities and challenges. Opportunities included reducing the burden on GPs, lowering overall NHS costs, and helping the food industry develop strategies to tackle obesity. However, participants also recognized challenges such as the lack of funding for preventive measures, the slow pace of system change, and the complexity of integrating multiple government departments and the NHS. Combating misinformation on social media was another significant challenge identified.


The workshop successfully brought together diverse perspectives, highlighting the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in addressing the complex issue of healthy weight management. The insights gathered set the stage for future workshops and ongoing collaborative efforts aimed at fostering health equity through person-centred system innovations.