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University of Hull researchers tackling obesity named as 'nation's lifesavers'


Two University of Hull researchers who are tackling obesity in our region have been named as ‘lifesavers’ by Universities UK.

The Nation’s Lifesavers are the top 100 individuals or groups based in universities across the country whose work is saving lives and making a life-changing difference to our health and wellbeing.

Dr Caroline Douglas and Dr Samantha Nabb, in partnership with East Riding of Yorkshire Council and Public Health, are shaping Live Well, an innovative programme designed to enable people to make healthy lifestyle changes to drive weight loss and promote wellbeing.

With seven in 10 adults classified as overweight or obese, the East Riding of Yorkshire has one of the highest rates of obesity in the UK. However, with LiveWell, 84% of people completing the programme have lost weight and results are surpassing National Institute for Health Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines for weight management completion and weight loss.



Live Well is helping to transform lives with participants increasing their daily fruit and vegetable intake, reducing sugary drinks and eating less foods high in salt, fat and sugar within just six months. GPs can make appointments for patients to attend a local leisure centre and work with a fitness professional who will tailor a programme to suit their needs and abilities.

Dr Nabb said: “The programme has been a great success due to the high quality of service provided by the Live Well instructors who ensure participants remain motivated through a variety of exercises that can be sustained once the programme has finished. 51.3% of the participants have achieved significant weight loss and the programme has been recognised nationally with a 2019 Local Government Chronicle (LGC) Award”.

Of the 84% of people completing the programme and losing weight, in addition they lowered their blood pressure and resting heart rate  – with one in three taking out a leisure centre membership once their programme finished. The strength of Live Well in helping people commit to lifestyle change is clear.

Dr Douglas said: “The success of this personalised approach to lifestyle change has had an amazing impact on participants who report many wider benefits, including increased happiness, self-esteem, higher energy levels and friendships made at their local leisure centres. One great example is of a father who became fit enough to walk his daughter down the aisle without being out of breath.”

The research team is supported by three postgraduate students who focus on streamlining the GP referral process for participants; providing Live Well instructors with information and support; and the development of a tailored version of the Live Well programme for 11-18 year olds.

The University’s work to tackle obesity is being celebrated for the first time today as part of Universities UK’s MadeAtUni campaign, which brings to life the impact of universities on families, communities and wider society.  


“When people think of lifesavers they understandably tend to focus on the dedication and skill of our doctors, nurses, carers, and paramedics – many of whom are trained at universities. Every day, up and down the country, universities are also working on innovations to transform and save lives. ”

Professor Dame Janet Beer, President of Universities UK

The Nation’s Lifesavers are battling diseases, tackling inequality, helping new parents and children enjoy the best start in life and supporting older people. In Mental Health Awareness Week, their stories show a huge contribution to improving our mental health and wellbeing.

The selection reveals the amazing use of technology, such as drones to fight malaria, a smart glove for communicating sign language and robots helping older people.   

Stories of the Nation’s Lifesavers highlight how the value of universities stretches far beyond the educational opportunities and economic impact they provide. Whether you attended university or not, the likelihood is that everyone has directly or indirectly benefited from medical advances or health and wellbeing developments pioneered at university. 

The University of Hull is driving improvements to healthcare in this region and beyond. From the health and wellbeing of pregnant women and young mums to cancer care, and the management of conditions such as diabetes and dementia, the University is working to tackle some of the greatest health challenges facing society this century.

Professor Dame Janet Beer, President of Universities UK, said: “When people think of lifesavers they understandably tend to focus on the dedication and skill of our doctors, nurses, carers, and paramedics – many of whom are trained at universities. Every day, up and down the country, universities are also working on innovations to transform and save lives. Research taking place in universities is finding solutions to so many of the health and wellbeing issues we care about and the causes that matter.

“By proudly working in partnership with charities, the NHS and healthcare organisations, universities are responsible for some of our biggest health breakthroughs and in revolutionising the delivery of care. 

“This campaign is a chance to bring to life the wonderful and often unexpected work going on every day in our universities and to celebrate some of the people working to make a life-changing difference to us all.”

Research, carried out by Britain Thinks, shows the public are proud of UK universities but have little understanding of the benefits they bring, with most not being aware that UK academics are behind many of the discoveries that save lives and keep up healthy. 

More information on the campaign is available on the dedicated website


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