• Led by Imperial College Business School, in partnership with the University of Bristol and the World Obesity Federation
  • Aims to establish the causal pathways that link childhood obesity to human capital development and social outcomes
  • Will focus on educational attainment, labour market outcomes and indicators of social participation in three UK cohorts
  • The project will run for 36 months from April 2018

This project led by Imperial College Business School is designed to establish evidence of the causal impacts of childhood obesity on education, labour market and social outcomes; and shed light on the direction of causality between obesity and social outcomes, and on the role of known confounders, such as children’s socio-economic background.

Childhood obesity is a major risk factor to long-term health outcomes in the UK and across the world. However, there are challenges in trying to tackle the problem. The health impacts of childhood obesity take a long time to materialise and available interventions often only demonstrate a small effect. This means a case for government action would be stronger if it did not rely purely on the health benefits of interventions.

Childhood obesity is a social phenomenon and wider societal action is needed to prevent it and to minimise its long-term impacts. Engaging and motivating policy makers and other relevant stakeholders to act will require a fuller understanding of the social and economic benefits of curbing the spread of obesity in children.

This project will examine the short- and long-term consequences of childhood obesity, in particular, what the causal effect is on educational attainment, employment participation, income level and social participation.

Data from multiple birth cohort studies will be used, including the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), the British Cohort Study of 1970, and the 1958 National Child Development Study (NCDS).

The study will leverage biomarkers in the ALSPAC cohort and genetic information in all three cohorts to analyse causal pathways.

The findings of the project will strengthen the case for action to tackle the current childhood obesity epidemic by providing an estimate of the broader welfare effects of interventions.

It aims to generate more detailed knowledge of the pathways and mechanisms through which the social and economic impacts of childhood obesity are generated, which will give policy-makers the means to intervene more effectively in mitigating those impacts.  

Follow this project on Twitter:

Contact information

For more information about this project, please contact Franco Sassi, Professor of International Health Policy and Economics, Centre for Health Economics and Policy Innovation, Imperial College London.

Further reading

Quick guide

What makes us healthy?

March 2018
Quick guide

This guide explores how a person’s opportunity for health is influenced by factors outside the...

About this programme


The Social and Economic Value of Health


Our programme exploring the impact of health on the social and economic outcomes of individuals and...

You might also like...


Webinar: Health in early years – how can we improve opportunities to live a healthy life?


Join us for this webinar to hear fresh insights – and their implications for policy – from two...



The challenge of going green: creating a more sustainable Health Foundation


As a funder, investor and a workplace, environmental sustainability should be a 'green thread'...

Press release

Government must ‘seize the moment’ and take a 'whole government’ approach to improving health, says charity

Press release

Health Foundation statement following the release of the cross-government strategy.

Kjell-bubble-diagramArtboard 101 copy

Get social

WEBINAR TODAY: #NHSrecovery – how do we 'build back better'? Hear from @JKDhesi, James Mackey, @rcsloggett,… https://t.co/FU8r5ifdaM

Follow us on Twitter
Kjell-bubble-diagramArtboard 101

Work with us

We look for talented and passionate individuals as everyone at the Health Foundation has an important role to play.

View current vacancies
Artboard 101 copy 2

The Q community

Q is an initiative connecting people with improvement expertise across the UK.

Find out more