UCL Faculty of Medical Sciences


Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on weight management practice in the UK

6 July 2020

Dr Adrian Brown of the UCL Centre for Obesity Research writes alongside colleagues from Leeds Beckett University, Leeds University and PHE about a national piece of work they are carrying out to understand how weight management services in the UK have been impacted by COVID-19.

Dr Adrian Brown

Evidence has accumulated rapidly to demonstrate that people living with obesity are at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 infection. There is also evidence that people from certain Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds and those living in our most deprived neighbourhoods are also at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. It is therefore important to understand what is happening in terms of weight management practice, and to share learning to support local considerations and national thinking.

Although there was advice to stop behavioural weight management services during the COVID-19 pandemic, many providers and local areas are still delivering support in some format, and public health teams are discussing how and what to offer going forward. As approaches are adapting to ensure the continuity of delivery, it is important to capture and share key learning, principles and local practice to support the system, including exploring the experiences of service users, commissioners and providers.

Leeds Beckett University researchers, led by Professor Louisa Ells, have partnered up with University College London, Leeds University and Public Health England to understand the impact of COVID-19 on weight management services, and to find solutions and best practices to support future services. This joined up approach is allowing us to rapidly collect data and insights from a broad spectrum of stakeholders, and to share the findings at pace.

This first phase of this project will explore family and adult tier 2 and 3 weight management services in England; to find out what is currently happening and what can be learnt. We hope to produce our findings from this initial phase in July. A second phase of this project will be to determine what needs to happen in the future to deliver safe and appropriate weight management services and we anticipate this phase will be complete by October.

We are undertaking the first phase using a rapid mixed-methods, multi-stakeholder approach to gather data, insights and experiences. We are gathering data through a number of surveys to gain insights from a range of different people and organisations involved with weight management.

The voices of families, young people and adults who are living with overweight or obesity are particularly important to us. We have therefore developed two surveys to capture the lived experiences of people living with overweight and obesity. This information will improve our understanding of the perceptions, attitudes and actions of children, young people and adults living with overweight and obesity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are keen to listen to as many people as possible, and would particularly welcome views and experiences from BAME communities and people living in the most deprived communities. If you would like to participate in the surveys, or can help us by sharing the survey links below with your network.
Child/Young person survey
Adult survey