Accessibility statement

Using Islamic religious settings to prevent obesity in South Asian children in the UK

Twenty five percent of South Asian (SA) children living in the UK are obese; this is almost 10% more than white British children. Some of this is due to their biological make-up, and some because of their lifestyle behaviours; for example research has shown that their diets are higher in sugar and fat, they spend less time being active and more time watching TV. Many SA children live in deprived areas, and deprivation is also related to higher risk of obesity. Obesity in children can lead to a high risk of disease such as heart disease and type 2-diabetes in adulthood. A recent search found that only five studies world-wide had tested the effectiveness of obesity prevention programmes for SA children. These studies had mixed results; all of the programmes were based in schools and they included little or no parental involvement, however, it is considered that parent and family involvement is essential in addressing childhood obesity. Religious settings may be a better place than schools to engage parents, the wider family and community in obesity prevention for SA children. Most SA children in the UK are of Islamic faith.

Islamic Religious Settings (IRS) include Mosques (mainly attended by men), Madrasas (Islamic schools where children are taught daily) and Women’s circles (groups where women meet to study Islam). This research aims to explore whether IRS are a good setting for an obesity prevention programme for SA children aged 5-11 years old using the following research activities:

  • A scoping review and mapping exercise to identify existing implementation models of health intervention in IRS 
  • Assessing the potential impact that Islamic religious settings could have for childhood obesity prevention by measuring their reach using a school based questionnaire
  • Identifying behaviours which prevent obesity in SA boys and girls which will be the targets for the intervention using an expert panel (experts in obesity prevention) and a community consensus panel (key stakeholders and Muslim community members)
  • Determine the receptiveness and capacity of IRS to deliver a childhood obesity prevention intervention and the acceptability to parents


Funder(s): NIHR 
Start Date:  June 2017
End Date:  November 2018


Internal Staff

External Collaborators

  • Sally Barber, Bradford Institute for Health Research
  • Emma Jane Frew, University of Birmingham
  • Peymane Adab, University of Birmingham
  • Mohammed Arshad, Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • John Wright, Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Laura Sheard, Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Neil Small, University of Bradford
  • Carolyn Summerbell, University of Durham

Public Health and Society Research in the Department of Health Sciences