News Release

NIHR to invest in more research into the prevention and treatment of obesity

Grant and Award Announcement

University of Southampton

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) will invest millions of pounds into research addressing the prevention and treatment of overweight and obesity. The call for proposals follows comments from the Chief Medical Officer who has highlighted obesity as one of the biggest threats to the nation's health.

The NIHR hopes researchers will submit applications covering a broad spectrum of research that will evaluate interventions and services to determine what practices are cost-effective in preventing and treating obesity in adults and children.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally C Davies said: "6 in 10 adults in the UK are now overweight or obese. We know that being overweight or obese has a significant negative effect on the health outcomes of adults and children.

It is vital that we support high quality research to help us find the most innovative and effective ways of preventing and treating obesity. I am confident that NIHR will continue to make a valuable contribution to our efforts to combat the rising prevalence of obesity. "

At a recent event to support researchers Professor Kevin Fenton, National Director of Health and Wellbeing, Public Health England commented: "Obesity makes us much more prone to serious life-threatening illnesses such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. With almost two thirds of the nation overweight or obese, there is no room for complacency. We, at Public Health England, are very excited that the NIHR will be funding practical and relevant research to help underpin the prevention and management of obesity locally and nationally"

Dr Martin Reeves, Chief Executive, Coventry City Council also speaking at the event said; "We are already seeing significant impacts of the obesity epidemic. We need to act quickly, but equally we need the evidence to give us the confidence that we are doing the right thing, and make the right interventions."

The NIHR, the research arm of the NHS, last ran an obesity themed call in 2009. One of the projects, that was successfully funded under the previous themed call into obesity, was the Football Fans in Training (FFIT) scheme. Under FFIT, men attended 12 weekly sessions at their local football club to learn useful skills and techniques to help them improve their physical activity and diet. It ran at 13 Scottish Professional Football League clubs at the time of the research. It found that men who participated in the FFIT scheme lost more than nine times as much weight as those who did not take part in the programme. Participants also benefited from reduced waist size, less body fat, and lower blood pressure, which are all associated with a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

"The NIHR enables first class research to be conducted," commented Kate Hunt, Chief investigator on the FFIT study. "Through funding from the NIHR we were able to conduct a full scale randomised controlled trial to evaluate FFIT, a weight management and healthy living programme designed to be appealing and attractive to overweight and obese men aged between 35 and 65. We demonstrated that by taking part, FFIT was able to help men lose weight, not only in the short term, but also to sustain their weight loss at least to 12 months. We also showed that FFIT was highly cost-effective."

The NIHR, which is celebrating 10 years of funding health research, is particularly keen to support research looking at the prevention of type 2 diabetes and increasing levels of physical activity. It welcomes applications for new primary research studies, research that synthesises existing evidence, and applications proposing the use of new and efficient study designs.

For more information and to apply, please visit


Notes to editors:

The NIHR welcomes applications for new primary research studies and research that synthesises evidence to:

  • evaluate the effectiveness of new, promising or existing interventions
  • support the translation of effective interventions into practice
  • improve adherence to individual, family or group health behaviour interventions or treatments
  • investigate the durability of effect, or undertake longer term follow up of pre-existing research for existing interventions. High quality applications proposing the use of novel and efficient study designs are encouraged, as are proposals that:
  • will make use of pre-existing data sets
  • investigate through models the impact of effective interventions on patients, the NHS or wider population

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded by the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy, and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research. The NIHR plays a key role in the Government's strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world. For further information, visit the NIHR website.

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