Tackling Obesity_FOUR fully funded PHDs @leedsbeckett @PHE_uk

Leeds Beckett University is delivering a major national programme that aims to help local authorities create more effective ways of tackling obesity. The programme is looking nationally and internationally to identify and explore new learning so that local authorities can use systems thinking to create a whole systems, joined up approach bringing together a wide range of sectors including the Voluntary, Community and Faith sector, health, social care, education, planning, highways and transportation, environmental health, housing, culture, leisure and businesses as employers and innovators.

This three year programme is funded by Public Health England and supported by the Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Public Health, and we are working in partnership with a number of local authorities as well as other national and international partners.

As part of the programme, we are offering FOUR FULLY FUNDED PHDs, starting in October 2016, covering a wide range of varied themes that will all contribute to increasing our knowledge in this highly relevant and fast-moving area. Successful candidates will be at the heart of the programme – working closely with our team and with local authorities and other partners – to explore cutting edge issues, and contributing to the finding of new learning and better solutions that can really help local authorities make in-roads into one of the most socially and economically demanding challenges of our age.

To find out more about the opportunities, please see:


To find out more about the programme, please see our website at

Website: http://www.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/wholesystemsobesity

Why a Whole Systems Approach?

Tackling obesity is a complex and multifaceted problem with over a hundred contributing factors as identified in the 2007 Foresight Report on “Tackling Obesities”. Our understanding of the causes and consequences of obesity is growing and it is now appreciated that only a “whole systems approach” is likely to enable us to make real in-roads into a problem and bring about major change to combating obesity, making better use of resources and improving wellbeing and prosperity.

This approach joins up the many influences on obesity that promote transformative, coordinated action across a wide variety of sectors, many of which are outside the health sector including voluntary, community and faith groups, social care, planning, housing, transport and business. Working across these sectors will help us to identify the opportunities to support individuals at key points throughout their lives to help reduce the occurrence and impact of obesity.

Leeds Beckett University and a range of other partners will be working closely with LAs to understand what is working well and what the opportunities and realities are for LAs in tackling obesity over the short, medium and long term. It will help equip LAs with approaches to make headway in what is an increasingly complex and challenging landscape involving many sectors with competing priorities and resource pressures.

The key to this is exploring what works well and what options might work, drawing on both international learning and the experiences of colleagues working in LAs across England, UK and internationally. We aim to produce a first draft of this roadmap by autumn 2016, and a tested, refined and expanded final version by September 2018.

The programme is seeking to understand the following major questions:

  • How can the framework set out by Foresight be best translated into a ‘Whole Systems Approach’ appropriate for the local system?
  • What does it mean in practice for Local Authorities (LAs)? What does it look like and what are the key principles?
  • How can LAs create a whole systems approach and what benefits can it bring?

In parallel with our in-depth work with local authorities, we will also be working with national and international colleagues to understand best practice and experience in systems science, whole systems working and evidence and case studies of what works well. We will also be running a series of events and seminars, for a range of different audiences.

Why undertake your PhD with us?

This programme provides an exciting and unique opportunity to be involved in and make a contribution to a major national programme, with international connections, that is seeking to understand and create a different – and hopefully more successful – approach to tackling one of the world’s most pressing challenges.  Successful candidates will be joining a team of colleagues from different backgrounds and disciplines as well as engaging with decision-makers and influencers in national and local government, and in major bodies that can create more joined up working, more effective and more sustainable solutions.

As part of this programme, Leeds Beckett University will be generating research material and findings, and seeking to produce a range of publications for different audiences. We recognise that this programme raises a number of opportunities for PhDs, and we are therefore offering four full bursaries for PhD students to join the team.

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