Our people

Research Team

Professor Emma Frew, Principle Investigator

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Emma Frew (5)

Nafsika Afentou, Research Associate

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Nafsika Afentou

Dr Hamideh Mohtashami Borzadaran, Research Fellow

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Hamideh Mohtashami Borzadaran

Dr Irina Pokhilenko, Research Fellow

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Irina Pokhilenko

Dr Lin Fu, Research Fellow

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Lin Fu

Dr Luiz Flavio Andrade, Research Fellow

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Luiz Flavio Andrade

Doctoral Researchers

Dr Bassit Malik, PhD student (NIHR SPHR-funded)


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Bassit Malik

Ms Humera Sultan, (NIHR Pre-Doctoral Fellow) 

Humera is a Pre-Doctoral Local Authority Fellow funded by the NIHR, and supervised by Professor Emma Frew. Humera is currently refining her PhD plan to submit a Doctoral Local Authority Fellowship, the title being  ‘How can health economic evidence, health economic analysis and adaptive leadership be used to support Local Authorities (LAs) to invest resources in parks? Humera will be supervised by Professor Emma FrewDr Irina Pokhilenko and Professor Jonathan Sadler.

Humera’s PhD has been developed against the backdrop of austerity, and the year-on-year budget decreases that parks have faced. Humera’s PhD also recognises the complexity within which Local Authorities operate and the importance that leadership plays in decision making. The PhD further seeks to support Local Authorities to articulate the value that green spaces bring and help them to make more sustainable investment decisions about these assets. 

Humera Sultan

Bethany Parkes 

The title of Bethany's PhD is 'Are healthy diets really more expensive than unhealthy diets? Understanding drivers of choice between healthy and unhealthy food and drinks.' This is an NIHR SPHR PhD studentship and she is based at the University of Exeter. Professor Emma Frew is one of her supervisors alongside Professor Richard Smith, Professor Antonieta Medina-Lara (University of Exeter) and Dr Laura Cornelsen (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine).

Bethany's PhD seeks to explore the affordability of healthy and unhealthy diets as a whole and to understand the extent to which price is a key driver of food choice. She is currently undertaking an overview of reviews on drivers of food choice which will contrast and compare drivers of healthy and unhealthy, food choices.

Bethany Parkes

Bisola Osifowora

The title of Bisola’s PHD is "A model-based cost-benefit analysis (CBA) of food systems interventions" under the supervision of Professor Emma Frew and Dr. Raymond Oppong at the University of Birmingham. Her research focuses on evaluating the return on investment and societal benefits of interventions within food systems. The study encompasses five primary intervention areas: availability (modifying the availability of healthy, sustainable food or unhealthy, unsustainable food), size (reducing the portion and package size of unhealthy, unsustainable food), promotions (restricting advertising and marketing of unhealthy, unsustainable food), pricing (adjusting pricing to either decrease the cost of healthy, sustainable food or increase the cost of unhealthy, unsustainable food), and provision of information (implementing environment and nutrition labelling).

This research will be the first to utilise the Greater Manchester Combined Analysis CBA tool to assess how changes in food systems can influence the economy. Additionally, the study will explore methods to adapt the CBA tool for a more comprehensive sensitivity analysis tailored to policy-making contexts. Bisola's PhD aims to extend the evaluation beyond individual health effects to capture broader societal impacts, providing valuable insights for policymakers and stakeholders in the food system.

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Bisola Osifowora 2 crop

Public Advisory Group

Introducing our Public Advisory Group

Our Public Advisory Group are crucial to the Centre.  Together we are an active partnership and our PAG group members provide: 

  • a valuable understanding of the local communities that we are working within.

  • local knowledge where text knowledge can leave gaps!

  • experience of living and working within our research settings.

  • skills from other parts of their lives that are valuable to the research.

Mr Chris Rance

Chris has a community interest in urban parks (as a founder member of a Friends group for two parks in the Selly Oak/Selly Park area) and professionally as a landscape architect involved over the years in many projects relating to green spaces, the street scene and general greening of the built environment. During 2021 Chris participated in a series of workshops as a ‘green champion’ working with the Birmingham Future Parks Accelerator team. He is a Technical Director (Landscape) at a major consultancy, with his role specifically focused on technical reviewing of reports and drawings to ensure their quality, clarity, consistency, and accuracy.

Chris Rance

Ms Eva Bennett

Eva currently devises and runs creative Arts projects which have a social purpose, working collaboratively in inner city community settings. Much of her recent work has centred around an urban green/blue space which is relied upon by a range of local communities. As a space under threat of redevelopment, she has been working with other community members to try and quantify the benefits it provides to user groups, to provide a platform to amplify the local voices from within the community, and to be a point of contact with the Local Authority.

Eve Bennett


Stakeholder Advisory Group 

Our stakeholder advisory group meet once a year to provide expert advice to the development and conduct of each of our workstreams to enable us to achieve maximum impact from a public, academic and policy perspective.  Each stakeholder represents a different perspective relevant to the wider determinants of obesity.

  • Professor Brian Ferguson, Director of NIHR Public Health Research programme

  • Mr Chris McEwan,  Local Authority Councillor Darlington. Darlington Primary Care Network  Lay Member. Member of Obesity Policy Engagement Network

  • Professor Petra Meier, Consortium Director of Systems science in Public Health and Health Economics Research (SIPHER), University of Glasgow.

  • Dr John Williams, Managing Director, Birmingham Health Partners

  • Ms Anna Taylor, Executive Director, The Food Foundation

  • Dr Magdalena Skrybant, Applied Research Collaboration Public Involvement Lead

  • Mr Mubasshir Aljaz, Head of Wellbeing and Prevention, West Midlands Combined Authority

  • Mr Dean Hill, Physical Activity and Wellbeing Legacy Lead Common Wealth Games Birmingham 2022, Sport England

  • Ms Margot Melville, Senior Evaluation Officer, Research & Monitoring Unit, Sustrans

  • Professor Miles Tight, Professor of Transport, Energy and Environment, University of Birmingham

Centre for the Economics of Obesity groupThe advisory group had its second annual meeting on 18th May 2023 at The Studio, Birmingham.  The day featured presentations from all CEO staff with insight/advice provided on all work to date and future direction. 

Research Partners

  • Birmingham City Council

  • Coventry City Council

  • Lidl GB

  • Canal and River Trust

  • Future Parks Accelerator programme

  • University of Sydney

International Vistors

Nienke De Graef

Nienke is a 23-year-old professional with a Bachelor degree in Medicine and a Master degree in Healthcare Policy, Innovation and Management. My educational journey has deepened my passion for enhancing healthcare systems. While pursuing my Master's degree, I had the opportunity to conduct research in Birmingham, which ignited my desire to contribute to the academic realm. Upon returning to the Netherlands, I embarked on my career as a full-time PhD candidate at Maastricht University, where I am now dedicated to creating value-based health care.

Nienke’s dissertation title is: 'Costs of mental health care in persons with obesity: A systematic review'

Nienke De Graef

Dr Olufunke Alaba

Dr Olufunke Alaba, a Senior Lecturer at the Health Economics Unit, School of Public Health, University of Cape Town and Research Fellow at the accredited UCT Research Centre for Health through Physical Activity, Lifestyle and Sport. (HPALS), has authored/co-authored over 30 peer-reviewed publications. Her research spans across health inequalities and equity; econometric analysis, and ecological factors related to physical activity, food security and obesity across the life-course, including Social Determinants of Health and most recently, economic returns and equity analysis of behavioral change interventions. She supervises /co-supervises PhD candidates and MSc/MPhil students.    

Currently, serving as a co-coordinator of the International Health Economics Association’s Special Interest Group on the Economics of Obesity, Dr. Alaba was a co-investigator for the South Africa CO-CREATE study ((Confronting Obesity: co-creating policy with youth), a 5-year initiative funded by the European Union’ Horizon. Additionally, she is a health economic analyst for various trial, including the START trial, and the ongoing SMS adherence support trial for Hypertension in HIV, both conducted in Cape Town. Dr Alaba is also involved in the Cardiometabolic disease risk evaluation and reduction in African people living with HIV infection (CaDERAL) study. Dr. Alaba’s expertise extends to the economic analysis of Public Health intervention on Physical activity like the outdoor gyms.

In 2023, Dr Alaba became an Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS) Vanguard fellow at the University of Birmingham, hosted by Professor Emma Frew of the Health Economics Unit. Her fellowship aims to foster collaboration between the University of Cape Town and the University of Birmingham in the areas of Economics of Obesity and Social Determinants of Health. The fellowship offers an opportunity to engage with researchers across various disciplines, departments and Institutes including the Centre for Economics of Obesity, the Department of Public Health, the Institute for Global Innovation, and the College of Medical and Dental Services at the University of Birmingham, promoting cutting-edge projects and collaborative initiatives.

Olufunke Alaba