Dr Bai Li PhD, MSc, BA

Dr Bai Li

Institute of Applied Health Research
Honorary Research Fellow
Visiting Professor, Guangxi Medical University, China
Visiting Research Fellow, Global Obesity Centre, Deakin University, Australia

Contact details

Room 218, Murray Learning Centre
Institute of Applied Health Research
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Dr Li’s research focuses on the development, evaluation and implementation of complex health interventions in low and middle income countries, in order to tackle leading global health challenges such as obesity and undernutrition. Dr Li has a strong track record in international academic citizenship and global media engagement. She is a Visiting Professor at the Guangxi Medical University (China) and a Visiting Research Fellow at the Global Obesity Centre (the first WHO collaborating centre) at Deakin University (Australia). The quality of her work has been recognised by several prestigious international and national academic awards. She was the 2018 national winner of the ‘Early Career Award’ from the UK Society for Behavioural Medicine, which is judged on outstanding peer reviewed publications, research incomes and contributions to the field of behavioural medicine.


  • PhD in Public Health and Epidemiology, University of Birmingham
  • MSc in Marketing (Social marketing), University of Birmingham
  • Dual BA (Hons) in Business Administration and Human Resource Management, University of Keele


Dr Li came from China and has been living in the UK for 18 years. Immediately prior to her move to the UK, she won the title of ‘The Most Outstanding Youth’ of the Capital City of Guangxi Province, P.R. China (shortlisted by the Guangxi Government and voted to win by 38,000 youths in the city).

Dr Li joined the Institute in 2009 through a competitively funded PhD Scholarship to conduct her doctoral research which used a mixed methods approach to develop a theoretically based intervention programme to prevent childhood obesity in China. Upon the completion of her PhD, she initiated and led the process of gaining over half million pounds research donation from China to fund the CHInese pRimary school children PhYsical activity and DietaRy behAviour chanGes InterventiON project (the CHIRPY DRAGON study), in order to evaluate the feasibility, effectiveness and cost effectiveness of the intervention programme developed during her PhD. This is believed to be the first research donation that any British university has ever received from mainland China.

Dr Li has led the CHIRPY DRAGON project from protocol development, trial management to results publications. The randomised controlled trial involved 40 primary schools in China, with support from Chinese local authorities. The study provides the first example of rigorous development and evaluation of evidence-based childhood obesity prevention intervention in developing countries. Her paper (reporting key findings from the intervention development process) won the ‘Annual Best Paper Award’ from the Journal of International Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity (2015) and the Editor in Chief of The Lancet presented her with the ‘Best Young Investigator Award’ in 2016. 



  • Evidence Based Medicine and Research Methods
  • Study Designs in Healthcare
  • Clinical Epidemiology (Study Design)
  • Clinical Epidemiology (Systematic Reviews)
  • Integrated Problems: Clinical Communications
  • Social Determinants of Health
  • Health Promotion
  • Qualitative Research Methods
  • Cancer
  • Maternal Health

Master of Public Health 

BMedSc Clinical Sciences

BMedSc Public Health and Population Sciences 

External Invited Lectures

Postgraduate supervision

Current PhD students:

  • Lead supervisor: A systems approach to the development of a childhood obesity prevention intervention for Saudi Arabia children
  • Co supervisor: Cross-cultural comparisons of obesity prevention in children: UK, Spain and China

Dr Li is interested in supervising doctoral research students in the epidemiology, development and evaluation of health interventions.

If you are interested in studying any of these subject areas please contact Bai directly, or 
for any general doctoral research enquiries, please email 

For a full list of available Doctoral Research opportunities, please visit our Doctoral Research programme listings 


Dr Li is interested in the development and evaluation of complex health interventions using mixed methods, as well as modifiable risk factors and prevention of obesity and other preventable non-communicable diseases in both developing and developed countries.In the last 5 years, Dr Li has helped to secure over £4 million international research income as a project lead/principal investigator, co-investigator or academic consultant. 

Key research topics include:

  • Systems approach to malnutrition interventions in South-East Asian countries
  • Informal child care (e.g. role and grandparents) and childhood obesity
  • Mixed methods to develop evidence based childhood obesity prevention interventions
  • Feasibility and randomised controlled trials of nutrition interventions
  • Process evaluation of interventions
  • Economic evaluation of childhood obesity interventions
  • Qualitative studies
  • Systematic review of modifiable risk factors for obesity 
  • Impact of food marketing on child eating behaviours

Other activities

Dr Li frequently gives guest lectures in overseas institutes to promote research capability building and knowledge exchange in developing countries. 

She has organised and chaired several international symposia on obesity prevention and plays an important role in developing and maintaining the University’s international partnerships. 

Dr Li is an invited reviewer for leading general medical journals (e.g. The Lancet and The British Medical Journal) and specialist journals (e.g. International Journal of Obesity, and Obesity Reviews and the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity). 

She has been interviewed by, and her research outputs have been featured on over 100 global media outlets such as the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, CNN, Daily Mail, China Daily, CCTV News, CCTV America, China International Radio, Channel Asia News (Singapore), Guangzhou Daily, Guangzhou TV, China Eastern Satellite TV etc. 

Read selected news articles about Dr Bai Li’s research on childhood obesity in China

Dr Li is a member of the World Obesity Federation, UK Society of Behavioural Medicine and a founder member of the International Social Marketing Association. She is also an invited expert member of the Chinese National Federation of Integrative Sports and Medical Sciences.

She has been the Institute’s lead representative and a committee member for the College’s early career researchers since 2014. She helps with the planning, promotion and running of masterclasses, annual research galas (joint research conferences with overseas and local universities) and other career development events.

Outside academia, Dr Li is an artist and musician. She has won international gold/silver/bronze prizes for drawing, singing and music recital. She has exhibited her art work (some permanently) in over 9 countries including the UK, US, Japan, Russia, Norway, Mongolia and China (mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan).


Selected Peer Reviewed Publications

2019 - Zanganeh M, Adab P, Li B and Frew E, ‘A Systematic Review of Methods, Study Quality, and Results of Economic Evaluation for Childhood and Adolescent Obesity Intervention’, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16 (485), DOI: 10.3390/ijerph16030485. 

2018 - Lidgate ED, Li B* (joint first and corresponding author), Lindenmeyer A, ‘A Qualitative Insight into Informal Childcare and Childhood Obesity in pre-schoolers in the UK’, BMC Public Health, 8(1229) (DOI:10.1186/s12889-018-6131-0) 

2018 - Zanganeh M, Adab P, Li B, Frew E, ‘Protocol for a systematic review and quality assessment of methods used for economic evaluations of obesity prevention and/or treatment interventions in children and adolescents’, BMC Systematic Review, 7(54) (DOI: 10.1186/s13643-018-0718-5) 

2017 - Li B*, Lin R, Liu W, Chen JY, Liu WJ, Cheng KK, et al, ‘Differences in perceived causes of childhood obesity between migrant and local communities in China: a qualitative study’, Plos One, 12(5) (DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0177505) 4 

2017 - Li B, Liu WJ, Adab P, Pallan M, Hemming K, Frew M, et al, ‘A cluster-randomised controlled trial to assess the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of an obesity prevention programme for 4 Chinese primary school-aged children: the CHIRPY DRAGON study protocol’, BMJ Open, 7(11) (DOI:10.1136/bmjopen-2017-018415) 

2017 Pallan M, Liu WJ, Xiong LH, Guo ZS, Li B, Griffin T, et al, ‘Weight status, Cardiorespiratory fitness and high blood pressure relationship among 5-12 years old Chinese primary school children’, Journal of Human Hypertension, 31(12): 808-814 (DOI: 10.1038/jhh.2017.67) 

2016 - Liu W, Lin R, Liu WJ, Guo ZS, Xiong LH, Li B, et al, ‘Relationship between weight status and health-related quality of life in Chinese primary school children in Guangzhou: a cross-sectional study’, Health and Quality of Life Outcomes, 14(166) (DOI: 10.1186/s12955-016-0567-7) 

2016 - Wang J, Adab P, Liu WJ, Chen YJ, Li B, Lin R, et al, ‘Prevalence of adiposity and its association with sleep duration, quality and timing among 9-to-12 years old children in China, Guangzhou’, Journal of Epidemiology, 27(11):531-537 (DOI: 10.1016/j.je.2016.11.003) 

2016 - Liu WJ, Lin R, Li B, Pallan M, Liu W, Cheng KK, et al, ‘Socioeconomic determinants of childhood obesity among primary school children in Guangzhou, China’, BMC Public Health, 16(482) (DOI: 10.1186/s12889-016-3171-1) 

2015 - Li B, Adab P, Cheng KK, ‘The role of grandparents in childhood obesity in China - evidence from a mixed methods study’, International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity,12(91) (DOI:10.1186/s12966-015-0251-z)  

2015 - Li B, ‘Moving The Field of Health Behaviour Research Forward with Genuine Application and Cross-Culture Assessment of Established Theoretical Models and Techniques’, Int J Translation Community Dis, Editorial,3(2e): 1-2 (DOI: 10.19070/2333-8385-150005e) 

2013 - Li B, Adab P, Cheng KK, ‘Family and neighbourhood correlates of weight status and obesogenic behaviours among Chinese children’, International Journal of Behavioural Medicine, 21(4): 700-709 (DOI: 10.1007/s12529-013-9333-y) 

Selected Symposia Chairing and Conference Presentations:

2018 - International symposium at the 2018 UKCO, titled ‘Are Systems and Programme-focused Approaches Complementary or Contradictory in Obesity Prevention and How Should we Move forward?’ (Chair) 

2018 - International symposium at University of Birmingham, titled‘Perspectives and experiences of intersectional systems based approaches to childhood obesity prevention’ (Chair)  

2018 - ‘Evaluation of the CHIRPY DRAGON intervention to prevent obesity in urban Chinese primary-school children: a cluster randomised controlled trial’, 14th UK Society of Behavioural Medicine Annual Scientific Meeting (oral presentation), Birmingham 

2018 - ‘A Qualitative Insight into Informal Childcare and Childhood Obesity in the UK’, 14th UK Society of Behavioural Medicine Annual Scientific Meeting (oral presentation), Birmingham 

2018 - ‘Rigorous development and evaluation of an evidence based obesity prevention programme for Chinese children – the CHIRPY DRAGON study’, 2018 UKCO (oral presentation), Newcastle  

2017 - ‘Association between type of grandparent care and childhood obesity - baseline data from the Chirpy Dragon trial’, 2017 UKCO (poster), Wales  

2016 - ‘Differences in perceived causes of childhood obesity between migrant and local communities in China: a qualitative study’, 2nd Lancet CAMS Health Summit in Beijing (oral presentation), The Lancet, V388 (S3) (DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(16)31930-4)

2016 - ‘Development of the CHIRPY DRAGON (CHInese pRimary school children PhYsical activity and DietaRy behAviour chanGes InterventiON) - a cluster randomised controlled trial of a theoretically based childhood obesity prevention programme in urban China’, the 2nd Lancet CAMS Health Summit in Beijing (poster), The Lancet, V388 (S51), (DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(16)31978-X)

2015 - ‘Systematic review of modifiable risk factors associated with childhood obesity in China, a population undergoing rapid social and economic transition’, UK Congress on Obesity (poster), Appetite, V87:376 (http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2014.12.117)

2015 - 'Are grandparents the key to childhood obesity prevention in China? Evidence from a mixed methods study', UK Congress on Obesity, Appetite (oral presentation), V87:375 (http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2014.12.116)

2014 - ‘Stakeholder views on why childhood obesity is rising in China: a qualitative study’, Abstracts of the 12th International Congress on Obesity in Malaysia (poster), Obesity Reviews, 15(S2):203 (DOI: 10.1111/obr.12152) 

2014 - ‘What and how childhood obesity prevention interventions should be delivered in China: a qualitative study’, Abstracts of the 12th International Congress on Obesity in Malaysia (poster), Obesity Reviews, 15(S2): 237 (DOI: 10.1111/obr.12153) 

2012 - ‘Family and neighbourhood environmental correlates of weight status and obesogenic behaviours among Chinese primary school children’, 12th International Congress of Behavioral Medicine in Budapest (oral presentation), International Journal of Behavioural Medicine, 19(S1): 226 (DOI 10.1007/S12529-012-9247-0)

View all publications in research portal