UCL Health


Healthy Weight Research Team

Our team of diverse investigators bring expertise from the individual level through to national policy and systems, using methods from qualitative research and person-centered approaches through policy analysis to quantitative analyses of large datasets. Each of our research groups has international expertise in obesity policy but also in broader fields, and are able to offer cross-cutting insights in developing innovative approaches to healthy weight policy.

UCL Institute of Child Health

Russell Viner, Co-Director

Russell Viner
Russell Viner is a Professor of Adolescent Health at the UCL Institute of Child Health and co-directs the Healthy Weight Policy Research Unit. He is a paediatrician and adolescent physician working with young people with diabetes at University College Hospital. He has significant ‘hands-on’ experience within the NHS, having been Clinical Director in a busy teaching hospital and clinical director for children and young people for the NHS across London.

Prof Viner received his MBBS from the University of Queensland in 1996, his PhD from the University of Cambridge in 1997 and assumed presidency of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health in March 2018. Prof Viner’s research focuses on population health, policy and health services for children and young people, with a particular focus on obesity.

> View Professor Russell Viner's UCL Profile

Oliver Mytton

Oliver Mytton
Oliver is a Clinical Associate Professor and Public Health Consultant. His research aims to support the implementation of public health approaches to tackling child and adult obesity. He is particularly interested in the evaluation of structural or population-level interventions to improve people’s health.

Oliver holds a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship and has been a co-investigator on major research grants funded by the NIHR Public Health Research Programme. He is a practising public health consultant, working at Milton Keynes City Council. He edited Time to Solve Childhood Obesity, an independent report on childhood obesity by Dame Sally Davies (2019), and was an advisor to the Health Select Committee (2017-18) during its inquiry into childhood obesity.

> View Dr Oliver Mytton's UCL Profile

Simon Russell, PRU Manager

Simon Russell
Dr Simon Russell is a Senior Research Fellow and Unit Manager of the NIHR Policy Research Unit in Obesity at the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health. Simon's role within the unit is to coordinate the activities of the research programme and develop, implement and monitor systems for the operational management of the unit.

Simon also manages and conducts research that meets the programmes aims and objectives, contributes to the national health research strategy, and provides evidence to inform the thinking of policy makers. A key focus of Simon's research is applying emerging methodologies, particularly when conducting systematic reviews and when using epidemiological techniques with large data sets to explore the causes, consequences and treatments of obesity. Simon has a particular knowledge of child and adolescent health, obesity across the life course, inequalities in health, and policy research. 

> View Dr Simon Russell's UCL Profile

Jessica Parker

Jessica Packer
Jessica Packer is a Research Fellow at the Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health. She has a background in Clinical Exercise Physiology, working with chronic disease patients. She then completed a Master’s of Clinical Epidemiology, completing her dissertation on the impact of maternal age on the longitudinal cardiorespiratory fitness of the offspring.

She was then chosen to complete an internship at the World Health Organization in the Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health Cluster (NMH), working within The United Nations Interagency Task Force (UNIATF) on the Prevention and Control of NCDs. She has also worked as a Research Assistant at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in the Department of Non-communicable Disease Epidemiology, assisting with grant applications, design and implementation of pilot studies, conducting a systematic review and quantitative analyses. 

Jessica's role in the Healthy Weight Policy Research Unit (HWPRU) is to lead projects involving emerging methodologies, including systematic reviews utilising machine learning, and applying simulated interventions using causal inference techniques across longitudinal cohort data. She also leads rapid response projects, to provide independent research as needed to inform relevant policy and practice decisions.

Disha Dhar

Disha Dhar
Disha Dhar is a Research Assistant at the Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health. Equipped with a solid foundation in Biomedical Sciences, she recently achieved a Master of Public Health

with a specialisation in Health Promotion. She has valuable experience in conducting systematic reviews, synthesizing evidence, and critically evaluating research studies. This is notably demonstrated through the attainment of a distinction in her Master's thesis at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Disha's dissertation focused on a systematic review delving into the Barriers and Facilitators to Family Planning Practices from the Perspective of South Asian Communities and Healthcare Providers. Throughout her academic journey, she has gained a profound understanding of various public health issues, fortified by a formidable foundation in quantitative and qualitative research methods.

Within the Obesity Policy Research Unit (OPRU), Disha’s role is to support projects aimed at informing policy initiatives for the well-being of children and young people. Furthermore, she actively contributes to rapid response mode projects, delivering independent research to shape pertinent policy and practice decisions

Centre for Food Policy, City University

Christina Vogal

Christina Vogel
Christina is the Director of the Centre for Food Policy, Professor of Food Policy and a registered nutritionist. Her research aims to inform the development, implementation and evaluation of food policies and interventions to improve population health, reduce inequalities and protect our planet.

Her work adopts a food systems approach and investigates the wider determinants of diet. Community participation and public voices are also integral to her research activities and development of policy recommendations to ensure they are appropriate and help shape fairer, more sustainable and more resilient food systems.

Christina leads several major research grants from NIHR PHR, NIHR PRP and the Wellcome Trust. Some of her currently projects include product placement trials with a national supermarket chain, evaluations of the UK Government’s Food (Promotions and Placement) legislation and the Healthy Start scheme, and systems investigation of the UK convenience store sector.

Christina’s research has informed local, national and international policy documents including the House of Lord’s Select Committee report on Food, Poverty, Health and the Environment, the WHO European Region’s 2022 report on obesity and local authority plans. Her work has received national and international press coverage, and she is Deputy Editor of the scientific journal Public Health Nutrition.

Anna Isaacs

Anna Isaacs
Dr Anna Isaacs is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre for Food Policy. She is a social scientist with training in public health and anthropological research methods. She is interested in exploring how social, political, economic, and environmental factors shape experiences of health and wellbeing in different contexts, as well as how these factors leads to health inequalities. Anna has expertise in a range of in-depth qualitative and participatory methods, and experience of working with diverse communities in areas of deprivation.

Olubunmi Kolawole

Olubunmi Kolawole
Olubunmi Kolawole is a researcher at the Centre for Food Policy. She works on research projects as part of the NIHR-funded Healthy Weight Policy Research Unit and previously the Obesity Policy Research Unit. Her work focuses on exploring the wider structural determinants which impact the consumption of healthy diets and produce dietary inequalities. Her work has involved using qualitative and participatory approaches to explore lived experiences and bring communities and decision-makers together to develop more equitable and effective policy solutions.

Institute of Fiscal Studies

Rachel Griffith

Rachel Griffith
Rachel Griffith is Research Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and Professor of Economics at the University of Manchester. She is Fellow of the Econometric Society, the British Academy and the Academy of Social Sciences. She is President-Elect of the Royal Economic Society and will be President in 2019-2020. Rachel won the Birgit Grodal award in 2014 and was awarded a CBE in Queen's Birthday Honours 2015 for services to economic policy. She was Managing Editor of the Economic Journal from 2011-2017. Rachel was a Professor of Economics at University College London from 2003-2010, she served as President of the European Economic Association from 2013-2015. She was Chair of the Economics and Economic History Section of the British Academy and was Deputy Chair of the Economics sub-Panel of the Research Excellence Framework. She was seconded to the Competition Commission as Senior Economist in 2001-2002. 

Rachel's research has been published widely in the top international journals, and broadly considers issues related to the impacts of government policy on consumers, firms and the functioning of markets. She currently holds her second ERC Advanced Grant to study the behaviour of consumers and firms and the impact of government policy in food markets, and is a Co-Investigator on the Obesity Policy Research Unit, fund by the National Institute for Health Research. She has also published widely on innovation, productivity and corporate tax, and she is one of the Principle Investigators on the ESRC Centre for the Microeconomic Analysis of Public Policy at the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

Britta Augsburg

Britta Augsburg
Britta Augsburg, an Associate Director at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, is an economist whose research focuses on understanding the channels through which poverty affects child development and how policy can be used to target these. Her current research portfolio focuses on understanding the influence of the child’s environment in affecting its growth process and the effectiveness of programs and policies that tackle constraints to environmental improvements at the community and household level.

To this end, she has designed and implemented a number of complex evaluations in LMIC’s, aimed at tackling constraints to better access to and behaviour related to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), with a particular focus on credit and technology adoption constraints. She has also analysed the complementarity between WASH environment and nutrition and is now involved in the Obesity Policy Research Unit’s projects studying purchasing of infant formula milk.

Christine Farquharson

Christine Farquharson
Christine Farquharson is a Senior Research Economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Her work focuses on understanding what factors shape children's health and development; the inequalities between different groups; and how policy can help close these gaps and support children to reach their full potential. Christine has a particular focus on the early years, and is involved in evaluations of interventions like the Healthy Start programme, Sure Start children's centres, and school food programmes. She is involved in OPRU's research on the relationships between economic insecurity and food purchasing.

Andrew McKendrick

Andrew McKendrick
Andrew is a Research Economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies. His work focuses on human capital, education, and nutrition with projects looking at the impact of COVID-19 on household diets, the effect of the Healthy Start vouchers, and the long term impacts of the Education Maintenance Allowance. Before joining IFS Andrew completed his PhD in Economics at Lancaster University and has undertaken placements at the Department for Education and the Bank of England.


UCL Behavioural Science and Health

Andrew Steptoe

Andrew Steptoe
Andrew Steptoe is Professor of Psychology and Head of the Research Department of Behavioural Science and Health, part of the Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care in the Faculty of Population Health Sciences. He graduated from Cambridge in 1972, and completed his doctorate at Oxford University in 1975. He moved to St. George’s Hospital Medical School in 1977, becoming professor and chair of the Department in 1988, where he remained until his appointment in 2000 to UCL as British Heart Foundation Professor of Psychology, a position he held until 2016. He became Deputy Head of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at UCL in 2005 and subsequently Head of Department before serving as Director of the Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care between 2011 and 2017. He is a Past-President of the International Society of Behavioral Medicine and is a fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, the British Psychological Society, Academia Europaea, and the Academy of Social Sciences. 

He was the founding editor of the British Journal of Health Psychology, an associate editor of five international journals, and is on the editorial boards of seven other journals. Andrew directs the Psychobiology Group and the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing research group at UCL. He has published more than 550 peer-reviewed articles and is the author or editor of 19 books, including the Handbook of Behavioral Medicine (2010) and the Routledge International Handbook of Psychosocial Epidemiology (2018). His research interests are in health behaviours, obesity, stress and health, ageing, and behaviour change.

> View Professor Andrew Steptoe's UCL Profile

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Clare Llewellyn, Co-Director

Clare Llewellyn is Associate Professor of Obesity, and co-leader of the Obesity research group in the Department of Behavioural Science and Health, part of the Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care in the Faculty of Population Health Sciences. After graduating from the University of Oxford in 2000 she had an initial career in the pharmaceutical industry completing GlaxoSmithKline's Commercial Management Scheme, before retraining as a psychologist.

In 2007 she was awarded an MRC Advanced Masters studentship for an MSc in Health Psychology at UCL, for which she gained a distinction. She went on to complete an ESRC/MRC-funded PhD in 2011 on the genetic epidemiology of appetite and growth in early life, under the supervision of Professor Jane Wardle at UCL. Following two postdoctoral positions - with Professor Wardle at UCL, and Professor Robert Plomin at KCL's Social Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre - she took up her first academic position as lecturer at UCL in 2013.

Clare is an honorary Research Fellow at the Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, at the University of Liverpool. Clare is also an elected trustee for the UK Association for the Study of Obesity; Europe's largest national obesity science organisation, and the UK's foremost charitable organisation dedicated to the understanding, prevention and treatment of obesity. She established and leads the first London Regional Group for the ASO.

> View Dr Clare Llewellyn's UCL Profile

Rana Conway

Rana Conway
Dr Rana Conway is a research fellow in the Obesity group at the Research Department of Behavioural Science and Health at UCL. She is a Registered Nutritionist and has over 20 years’ of experience in public health nutrition. 

Previously, Rana has worked at King’s College London, Imperial College and London South Bank University on a range of nutrition projects involving pregnancy and infant feeding as well as researching iron absorption and dietary determinants of blood pressure. She

has also written several books about nutrition for pregnancy and the early years.

Rana’s role in the Obesity Policy Research Unit is to investigate parental feeding choices in relation to baby milk purchasing and how health professionals can best promote healthy eating in the early years. She also works on the Ascot study at UCL, which is a lifestyle intervention for people living with and beyond cancer.

> View Dr Rana Conway's UCL Profile


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Professor Peymané Adab

Professor Peymané Adab biography at the University of Birmingham

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Professor Paul Aveyard

< Professor Paul Aveyard biography at Oxford University

Professor Emma Boyland

Emma Boyland
Emma Boyland is a Senior Lecturer in Appetite and Obesity at the Institute of Population Health, University of Liverpool. Dr Boyland’s key research interests focus on the food environment, characterising the foods and beverages available and the way they are marketed via traditional and digital means, as well as seeking to understand how this impacts eating behaviours, particularly in children.

She has recently updated WHO global evidence reviews on the impact of food marketing on eating behaviour and health and the effectiveness of food marketing policies to inform international WHO guidelines.

She sits on the WHO Global Steering Committee for digital food marketing, is an expert advisor to both WHO Europe and UNICEF and is a member of the leadership group for the International Network for Food and Obesity/Non-communicable Diseases Research, Monitoring and Action Support (INFORMAS) food promotion module.

> Professor Emma Boyland at the University of Liverpool

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Professor Louisa Ells

> Professor Louisa Ells biography Leeds Beckett University





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The NIHR Policy Research Unit in Reproductive Health is part of the NIHR and hosted by UCL.