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Taking action on obesity across society

Taking action on obesity across society

A workshop hosted by the All-island Obesity Action Forum supported by safefood, the Department of Health Northern Ireland and the Department of Health, Ireland.

Catch up: Watch the recording

Launch of new safefood report

At the workshop, safefood launched a new research report, Public Acceptability of Policies to Address Obesity. Dr Laura McGowan, Dr Eleni Spyreli and Aoibhin Kelly presented the research findings, and you can download a copy of their presentation here.

You can download the full report here.


09.00am – 10.00am
Registration with tea & coffee

10.00am – 10.10am
Welcome address
Speaker: Prof Sir Michael McBride, Department of Health, Northern Ireland

10.10am – 10.40am
Public Views about Obesity and Acceptability of Obesity Policies: Findings from a mixed-method study on the island of Ireland
Speaker: Dr Laura McGowan, Dr Eleni Spyreli and Aoibhin Kelly, Queen’s University Belfast

10.40am – 11.10am
Food Reformulation Roadmap for Ireland 
Speaker: Nuala Collins, Food Safety Authority of Ireland

11.10am – 11.30am

11.30am – 12.00pm
What might effectively reduce obesity? Reappraising the policy challenge
Speaker: Professor Martin White, University of Cambridge

12.00pm – 12.30pm
Nutritional Standards in Health and Social Care for Staff and Visitors
Speaker: Dr Hannah Dearie, Public Health Agency

12.30pm – 12.50pm
Q&A Session

12.50pm – 1.00pm
Closing Remarks
Speaker: Ursula O'Dwyer, Department of Health, Ireland

1.00pm – 1.30pm
Lunch & Networking


Dr Laura McGowan, Queen’s University Belfast

Dr Laura McGowan is a Chartered Psychologist and Lecturer in Nutrition and Behaviour Change within the Centre for Public Health, Institute for Global Food Security, Queen’s University Belfast. She has previously worked in the Public Health Agency NI and at the Health Behaviour Research Centre, University College London. Her research focuses on the development of theory-based behaviour change interventions to improve diet and nutrition status, and to prevent, and treat obesity, in a variety of population groups spanning the lifecycle, with an emphasis on the reproductive years (i.e. pre-pregnancy/preconception and pregnancy). Dr McGowan is the Lead for the Association for the Study of Obesity Northern Ireland Network. She is currently Chair of the Division of Health Psychology, NI and Co-Chair of the UK Preconception Early- and Mid-Career Researcher Network. Dr McGowan is an invited member of the Obesity Prevention Steering Group and the Obesity Prevention Strategy Project Board at the Dept. of Health NI, and an invited member of the All-Island Obesity Forum run by safefood.

Dr Eleni Spyreli, Queen’s University Belfast

Dr Eleni Spyreli is a registered dietitian and a researcher at Centre for Public Health, Queen’s University Belfast. She has previously worked in the NHS as an antenatal dietitian and in research projects including the Hellenic National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (Greece). Her research interest lies in factors influencing dietary behaviours in various population groups (e.g. low-income families, women during pregnancy and postnatal period and infants), as well as in views in relation to obesity and policies to address obesity. Eleni is currently part of the Supporting MumS study, a UK-wide trial that aims to support women with weight management in the postnatal period.

Aoibhin Kelly, Queen’s University Belfast

Aoibhin Kelly is a Registered Associate Nutritionist (ANutr) and a current PhD student at the Centre for Public Health, Queen’s University Belfast. She has previous experience working as a Public Health Nutritionist/Manager of healthy lifestyle programmes for families in Hertfordshire, England. More recently, she has worked on family weight management/health promotion projects across the Western Trust area of Northern Ireland. Her doctoral thesis focuses mainly on adult obesity-related policies and weight management services in Northern Ireland, public views about obesity and experiences of weight stigma/bias on the Island of Ireland. Aoibhin’s other research interests include intervention development, specifically the development of non-stigmatising approaches to weight management.

Dr Hannah Dearie, Public Health Agency

Dr Hannah Dearie is a dietitian with a PhD in Public Health Nutrition from the Centre for Public Health, QUB. Hannah has worked for the Public Health Agency in the Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement team for the past 12 years. During this time she has been involved with a number of nutrition and obesity projects including; Food in Schools, Nutritional Standards in Health and Social Care settings for staff and visitors, Active Schools Travel and breastfeeding. Hannah is passionate about the role of prevention and early intervention on the health of the population of Northern Ireland. Outside work Hannah has two young children who keep her busy and she volunteers with Belfast Health and Social Care Trust as a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter.

Nuala Collins, Food Safety Authority of Ireland

Nuala is a dietician with significant experience in nutritional science and food regulation. She studied at Trinity College Dublin (BSc Human Nutrition), Dublin Institute of Technology (Diploma Dietetics and Nutrition), University of Southampton (PgCert Allergy) and currently at Ulster University/University College Dublin (MSc Food Regulatory Affairs) reflecting a lifelong joy of and commitment to learning. Nuala worked for national and global food companies before joining the Food Safety Authority of Ireland to work in Public Health Nutrition and more recently as Food Reformulation Taskforce Lead.

Professor Martin White, University of Cambridge

Martin trained in Medicine at Birmingham University, from which he was also awarded an MD for research on the food retail environment. He undertook public health specialist training in the North East, gaining his MSc from Newcastle University, and Membership and Fellowship of the Faculty of Public Health. He was Lecturer, Senior Lecturer and Professor of Public Health at Newcastle University from 1990 to 2014. He is presently co-lead of the Population Health Interventions Programme in the MRC Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge. Martin leads research on food systems and public health, and has a particular interest in evaluation of population health interventions to improve diet and health.

From 2012-14, Martin was President of the UK Society for Social Medicine and from 2017-18 President of the UK Society for Behavioural Medicine. He is an NIHR Senior Investigator and was Director of NIHR’s Public Health Research Programme (2014-20). In 2019-20 he was a specialist adviser to the House of Lords Select Committee on Food, Poverty, Health & Environment and is advised the DEFRA-led National Food Strategy team. He is leading an NIHR funded evaluation of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy and a UKRI interdisciplinary consortium on food system transformation (

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