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Professor in the Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences 
Fellow of the Durham Research Methods Centre
Fellow of the Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing


Professor Carolyn Summerbell is the Deputy Director of Fuse, The Centre for Translational research in Public Health. This research centre is a member of the School for Public Health (SPHR) which is funded by the National Institute for Public Health (NIHR) in England. The subject of Carolyn’s research expertise is childhood obesity and public health, and health inequalities. Her research is framed within a complex and adaptive whole systems approach. The methodological tools which Carolyn uses for her research include the Cochrane Collaboration methods for systematic reviewing controlled studies, and also those designed for reviewing other types of studies which she has helped develop. When adapting or designing new interventions, or assessing the impact of ongoing public health initiatives, Carolyn uses The MRC framework for developing and evaluating complex interventions.

More specifically, Carolyn’s research is focuses on three areas of enquiry. First, the collation of evidence for the prevention of obesity in children, and dissemination and translation of this evidence into policy and practice. Second, on the development and evaluation of interventions using multi-level system approaches to prevent childhood obesity. Carolyn works with policy-makers, local authorities, health professionals and the public to co-produce interventions. Third, understanding the complex nature of child health system, and identifying opportunities for change to parts of the system that will improve the prevalence of childhood obesity. The need to assess and reduce health inequalities underpins this programme of work.

Carolyn’s current portfolio of research includes funding from MRC, NIHR, SPHR, and DfE. She is also the Theme 3 (Improved Food Consumption and Health) Lead for Durham for the N8 Agrifood programme. Professor Summerbell was a member of the Research Funding Board of the NIHR Public Health Research Programme from it’s inception to 2013, and is currently a member of the Expert Review Panel of the MRC UK Nutrition Research Partnership Collaborative Awards. Carolyn has co-authored over 150 peer-reviewed research papers and many Cochrane reviews. She has successfully supervised 18 PhD students to completion. She is regularly invited to give keynote lectures at international conferences, and is on the Editorial Board of the International Journal of Obesity and Child and Adolescent Obesity.

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Research interests

  • 1. The collation of evidence for the prevention of obesity in children.
  • 2. Dissemination and translation of evidence for the prevention of obesity in children into policy and practice.
  • 3. The development of community-based interventions to prevent childhood obesity.
  • 1-3 In all of the above, particular interest in health inequalities.
  • 4. The development of tools to assess dietary intake and physical activity levels at a population level.


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Supervision students