CEDAR Bulletin No. 21 – July 2017

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Find our Feat: CEDAR launches the Food Environment Assessment Tool

CEDAR has recently launched the Food environment assessment tool (Feat). This new resource is underpinned by the latest scientific evidence about how food access in our neighbourhoods affects our dietary choices, body weight and health. It allows for detailed exploration of the geography of food retail access across England.

It will allow you to map, measure and monitor access to food outlets at a neighbourhood level, including changes over time. It is designed around the needs of professionals in public health, environmental health and planning roles, locally and nationally. Use it to:

  • generate local evidence for use in the development of Obesity Strategies, Local and Neighbourhood Plans, JSNAs and Strategic Planning Documents.
  • support planning decisions
  • compare food access between neighbourhoods, and see where is changing fastest
  • target interventions, and test the effectiveness of planning policies.

Feat has been developed by CEDAR and the MRC Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge and is powered by data from Ordnance Survey.

Access Feat at www.feat-tool.org.uk

Contact the Feat development team: feat-tool@mrc-epid.cam.ac.uk

Feat in the news

We worked with The Guardian newspaper as part of the Feat launch. The paper covered it from a number of angles:

A number of other national and local outlets picked up the story, and Dr Tom Burgoine spoke about Feat on various radio stations including TalkRadio.com and Radio 5 Live (from 2:40:48)

Job opportunity

There’s also currently a vacancy for a Research Assistant in a study to explore the nature of local authority actions to limit proliferation of hot food takeaways in England. Fixed term post for 8 months, deadline for applications 23 August.

Global Diet and Activity Research Group and Network (GDAR) funding awarded

CEDAR is to play a key role in a new international research partnership to help combat poor diet and physical inactivity and reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases.

The Global Diet and Activity Research Group and Network (GDAR) has been awarded funding by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

GDAR will carry out research to help prevent non-communicable diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer, which are a major and growing cause of death and disability in low and middle income countries. Two of the most important causes behind the increases in these diseases are unhealthy diets and a lack of physical activity, both of which are associated with the rapid economic development that is taking place in these countries.

GDAR will generate evidence on the factors that lead to poor diet and physical inactivity; design and evaluate interventions to change these factors; and investigate the long-term health and economic effects of such interventions.

The partners in the GDAR network are:

  • MRC Epidemiology Unit and the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR) in the UK
  • University of the Witwatersrand and University of Cape Town in South Africa
  • University of Yaoundé in Cameroon
  • Centre for Global Health Research at the Kenyan Medical Research Institute
  • Caribbean Institute for Health Research, University of the West Indies

Read the full story here.  

A new leash of life: dog walking could be key to ensuring activity in later life

A new study has shown that regularly walking a dog boosts levels of physical activity in older people, especially during the winter.

Published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the study used data from the EPIC Norfolk cohort study, which is tracking the health and wellbeing of thousands of residents of the English county of Norfolk.

The researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and CEDAR found that owning or walking a dog was one of the most effective ways to beat the usual decline in later-life activity, even combatting the effects of bad weather. Dog owners were sedentary for 30 minutes less per day, on average.

More than 3000 older-adults participating in the study were asked if they owned a dog and if they walked one. They also wore an accelerometer, a small electronic device that constantly measured their physical activity level over a seven-day period.

The team found that on shorter days and those that were colder and wetter, all participants tended to be less physically active and spent more time sitting. Yet dog walkers were much less impacted by these poor conditions.

National coverage of this story included the Daily Telegraph, Independent, Daily Mail, the Sun, and the Daily Express, with lots of local and regional coverage across the country.  Internationally, it pricked up the ears of Sky News Australia, Times of India, and Irish Times among many others. Prof Andy Jones also did a pack of interviews (14 in fact) with BBC local radio stations, as well as ITV Anglia.

New Evidence Brief.  Changing the way we travel – Infrastructure and our everyday transport choices

Cambridgeshire Guided BuswayEnabling people to walk, cycle and make greater use of public transport has benefits for health and the environment. But what do we know about the effectiveness of changing the way we travel by improving the places we live in?

As well as our evidence reviews, at CEDAR we have evaluated three interventions in this area: cycling initiatives, new routes for walking and cycling, and a new transport system that supports walking, cycling and public transport.

This Evidence Brief takes a look at the findings and what they could mean for transport and public health policy.

Cycling tool highlighted in national strategy – and other public health modelling news

The recently-launched Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Strategy (CWIS) is part of government plans to encourage cycling in the UK.

An important part of the delivery of the strategy at a local level will be the Propensity to Cycle Tool (PCT), which was developed by a team at Universities of Cambridge, Leeds and Westminster, led by researcher from CEDAR.

The tool, funded by the Department for Transport, helps prioritise investment in transport planning and is widely seen as representing a step-change in planning strategically to increase cycling. The design, features and potential applications of the PCT was recently published in the Journal of Transport and Land Use.

Public Health Modelling Study News

Towards an Integrated Global Transport and Health Assessment Tool (TIGTHAT).
The two year TIGTHAT project began in April 2017, and will help lay the scientific foundations of a health impact assessment tool that will be readily applied to a wide variety of urban settings in Low or Middle Income Countries to estimate health impacts of transport choices.

TIGTHAT is an international collaboration funded by an MRC Global Challenge Foundation Award, and led by Dr James Woodcock, Dr Marko Tainio and Dr Rahul Goel from the Public Health Modelling programme in CEDAR, and Dr Søren Brage of the MRC Epidemiology Unit’s Physical Activity Epidemiology programme in the MRC Epidemiology Unit. A kick-off meeting was held in Barcelona in June, with experts from around the world participating in the talks.

In addition, to TIGTHAT, the Public Health Modelling programme has also recently started  Methods and Tools for Assessing the Health Impacts of Transport: modelling study (METAHIT) – a three year project to develop methods for modelling health impacts of transport in England.

Read more at www.cedar.iph.cam.ac.uk/research/modelling/tigthat   

CEDAR leading major evaluation of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy

With partners from Oxford and LSHTM, CEDAR is leading a major natural experimental evaluation study of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy (SDIL).

The SDIL is a new levy announced in the 2016 budget, directed toward producers and importers of soft drinks that contain added sugar. Companies will have to pay 18p/100 ml for drinks containing at least 5g of sugar per 100ml, and 24p/100ml for those with more than 8g per 100ml.

The design and implementation of the levy was led by HM Revenue and Customs and HM Treasury. They consulted on the plan in August 2016 and it was included in the Finance Bill 2017, which received Royal Assent in May 2017. The SDIL will take effect from April 2018.

Grounded in a ‘systems approach’, the SDIL Evaluation Study aims to assess how and for whom the levy has an effect on health, looking at a variety of potential impacts. The evaluation will examine:

  • product diversification, reformulation, marketing, prices, purchases and consumption of soft drinks
  • early health impacts of the levy
  • the process by which the tax came about, as well as wider change in public, political, societal and industry attitudes.

The SDIL Evaluation Study is funded by the National Institute for Health Research’s Public Health Research Programme (Project number 16/130/01).

Have you visited Great Snackington? It’s a place where healthy foods can be hard to find.

As part of the 2017 MRC Festival of Medical Research, CEDAR researcher Dr Tarra Penney teamed up with Cambridge artist Aurora Cacciapuoti to imagine the town of Great Snackington.

Great Snackington is a way for the whole family to explore the question of how where we live and work affects the food choices we make.

  • Visit the town at mrc-epid.cam.ac.uk/snackington
  • Printed copies of Great Snackington are also available. If you would like copies, please email comms@mrc-epid.cam.ac.uk. You can also contact us if you would like a researcher to visit your school to talk about this subject. 

NIHR Let’s Get Digital Award – A ‘hole’ lot of salt video needs your vote!

Dr Jean Adams, with colleagues at Fuse, the Centre for Translational Research in Public Health, has produced a video outlining the findings of an intervention aimed at reducing the consumption of salt with takeaway foods.  The video – A ‘hole’ lot of salt – has been shortlisted for the video category of NIHR’s Let’s Get Digital awards.

The awards judging panel described the video as “an excellent example of making clinical research accessible to the public,”, and you can now vote for who you think should be the winner in this and other categories.

Associated publications:

Jean has also recently been interviewed for a Cambridge Independent feature on how to improve the eating habits of a nation

Forthcoming seminars

CEDAR / MRC Epidemiology Unit Seminar: 2 August 2017, 12:30 – 1:30
Early Life Undernutrition Alters Cardiac Muscle Development Resulting in Reduced Physical Activity Engagement and Increased Risk of Cardiovascular Disease.
David P. Ferguson PhD, RCEP, Assistant Professor of Kinesiology, Michigan State University.
Meeting Rooms 1&2, Level 4, Institute of Metabolic Science, Cambridge Biomedical Campus

Bradford Hill Seminar: 24 November 2017, 13:00-14:00
Evidence is Not Enough: Towards a democratically legitimate role for evidence in health policymaking
Dr Katherine Smith, Global Public Health Unit Social Policy, University of Edinburgh
Large Seminar Room, 1st Floor, Institute of Public Health, University Forvie Site, Robinson Way, Cambridge.

More talks and events at www.mrc-epid.cam.ac.uk/events and www.iph.cam.ac.uk/news/seminars  

Latest CEDAR publications


The following papers have been published or added to our publications database since the last CEDAR Bulletin. All are Open Access. In total we’ve published over 60 research papers this year!

General public health


Physical activity

You can search nearly 400 CEDAR scientific papers by author, journal, study, title and abstract keywords on our publications database at www.cedar.iph.cam.ac.uk/publications

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Questions and comments to Oliver Francis: ocf26@cam.ac.uk