Priorities in Obesity and Weight-related Research:
The POWER Survey
Our project asked the public, researchers, doctors, nurses and policy makers to tell us their priorities for research about body weight and obesity via an online survey. We were interested in any question related to body weight and health, this might include the effect of genes, metabolism, emotions or the influence of the kind of society we live in. The results will identify the most important, unanswered questions for body weight and obesity that will help set the research agenda for the next five years.
Part of our Changing Behaviours for Better Health and Preventing Disease research theme
Obesity is a major but potentially preventable cause of ill-health, and an increasing cost to the NHS. Although obesity and weight-related research is expanding, drawing on an increasing range of different research areas, the decisions about what to study are largely being taken by researchers themselves.
We aimed to use a more transparent, systematic, and collaborative approach that involves multiple partners to identify research priorities in order to maximise progress and better meet the needs of the people that use our research.
In order to achieve this we followed an established process similar to that of the James Lind Alliance (a well-developed method for incorporating the views of the public and doctors, nurses and other health professionals in setting research priorities). Our approach also included policymakers and the views of people who commission health services as this is a public health issue.
In the first phase participants were asked to identify research questions that still needed answering via an online survey. We excluded questions that had already been answered, or were beyond the reach of scientific research at this time, and we grouped the remaining questions. In a second survey respondents were asked to rate these questions on a scale of one to ten.
A short list of 30 questions was drawn up. The list of questions from the second survey was taken to an online workshop which involved small group discussions with mixed groups of members of the public and the different professional partners.
The participants worked together to prioritise the remaining questions and the final list of the top ten research questions was developed collaboratively.
How we are involving patients and the public
We asked members of the Nuffield Department Weight Management Panel for feedback on all aspects of the survey and related documents during the planning stage. Original and rephrased research questions were emailed to the public representatives. This was followed up by online meeting to discuss any issues.
This process was followed for the first and second survey to ensure that the questions were accessible to as wide a range of people as possible. Feedback on the survey questions was encouraged and received from the survey respondents themselves, which also improved the understanding of the questions. Members of the public participated in both surveys and attended the online workshop. The partner organisations we collaborated with publicised and shared a link to our project website and survey on their webpages or newsletters.
We have noted the questions that were put forward but had already been answered. It is also of interest to look further into these questions to see why people are not aware of research that has taken place. There is a need to increase the knowledge of the existing research among researchers and the general population to ensure that work is not repeated unnecessarily.
How we are planning to implement the research outputs
It is important that the outputs of this project are widely shared to attract funding to these priorities.
We will share the findings with members of the public, health professionals and others involved in managing body weight and obesity. The results will be published in an academic paper and through newsletters, press releases and digital and news media, including our Weight Management Panel newsletter and via the organisations that have hosted our survey on their webpages or newsletters.
We will communicate the results of this research to respondents of the surveys and those involved in the workshop. In order to more widely share the findings we plan to produce an infographic, flyer and short video summarising the top 10 priorities. We have an online presence and links to all outputs on our project webpage (www.phc.ox.ac.uk/POWER).
We will share this list with research funders and researchers themselves to focus research on what matters most to us all.
Project end date
Survey completed. In write up.
- To identify and prioritise the top 10 unanswered questions for obesity and weight-related research that stakeholders agree are the most important to address obesity and improve population health.
- A list of the top ten unanswered research questions in obesity and weight-related research identified by members of the public, health professionals, policy makers, funders and researchers.
- To share this information and to attract funding so that these priority research questions are addressed. We plan to publish the results in an academic journal; produce an infographic summarising the top 10 priorities and a short video explainer discussing the project and its process and findings.
- This has the potential to build on current research and to influence future research areas.
- Bringing together the views of a wide range of people should lead to future collaborative work and funding for relevant projects emerging from this joint process.