NIHR Obesity Policy Research Unit at UCL


Quantifying the health and social impacts of obesity during childhood


Quantifying the health and social impacts of obesity during childhood


This project aims to quantify the health and social impacts of obesity during childhood. We will scope the research literature to provide a summary of the evidence available describing the relationship between obesity with different health and social outcomes during childhood and adolescence. The information we find will be used to help estimate the cost-effectiveness of childhood weight management services.


Quantifying the impacts of obesity during childhood is important for evaluating the impact of preventive and treatment interventions that affect children and young people. There is research describing the health and social impacts of obesity in childhood, but it has not been summarised. 

It is often considered important to prevent childhood obesity to prevent obesity and disease in adult life. There are significant health consequences and costs from obesity in adult life. However, treatment of obesity during childhood may not be seen as good value for money, because the benefits do not happen for a long time, so are ‘discounted’. It is particularly important to quantify benefits occurring in childhood as they will not be discounted and so may be of greater economic value. 

Currently the absence of good data limits the ability of the Department for Health and Social Care to undertake good cost-effectiveness modelling of child weight management and other measures to tackle childhood obesity. Being able to demonstrate the impact of obesity during childhood and adolescence may also be important for engaging teachers and parents in efforts to tackle childhood obesity.


This is a participatory methods research project, involving three groups: the public, academic experts and policy professionals. There will be three phases of this project. During the first phase, we will identify the important medical and social complications of obesity during childhood, with input from our three groups and from reviewing the literature. We will then undertake a scoping review to search and review the literature to identify which outcomes are adequately quantified. For these outcomes, we will identify suitable information to use for cost-effectiveness modelling. In the second phase, for some important health and social outcomes where the evidence has not been adequately quantified, we will identify suitable cohort studies and undertake new data analysis to quantify the impact of obesity on these outcomes. In phase three, depending on the prior two phases, we will model the cost-effectiveness of child weight interventions or conduct further data analysis, as in phase 2. 


January 2024