Research Teams


University of Oxford

Behavioural Medicine

Changing behaviour and culture to prevent or treat disease.

Paul Aveyard +44 (0)1865 289315

What is behavioural medicine?

Behavioural medicine is the integration of biological, psychological and sociological knowledge to prevent and treat disease and to aid rehabilitation. The aim is to look at changing people’s behaviour and the culture to either prevent or treat serious disease.

The Behavioural Medicine Group are focused on:
Smoking cessation
Weight management by adopting a healthier life style and following different weight loss interventions

Smoking Cessation

Around 10 million adults smoke in the UK, with smoking costing the NHS £2.7 billion a year to treat disease.

Smoking causes around 86% of deaths from lung cancer, around 80% of deaths from bronchitis and emphysema, and about 17% of deaths from heart disease. More than a quarter of all cancer deaths can be attributed to smoking.

The Behavioural Medicine Group have conducted a number of research studies looking at how different interventions introduced to smokers by their GPs can help them stop smoking, such as cutting down on their cigarette consumption, using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) compared to temporary abstinence (TA), financial incentives and smoking during pregnancy.

Paul Aveyard and a number of his group are also part of the Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group.

It has been found that people who stop smoking have put on weight and the group’s research is looking into the best ways to prevent this from happening without affecting the chance of stopping smoking.

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Weight Management

In the UK, 25% of adults are obese and the prevalence is projected to double over the next 50 years. It is a major cause of morbidity and chronic disease, particularly increasing the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers. Furthermore, the direct cost in England is estimated at £4.2 billion per year.

No NHS treatment service for obesity exists and GPs rarely discuss weight management with patients or support behaviour change. This is something the Behavioural Medicine Group would like to see change.

Research has shown that overweight and obese adults who have been referred to commercial weight management providers such as Weight Watchers, Slimming World and/or Rosemary Conley, have lost more weight than those who have attempted to lose weight without support. Research of the behavioural medicine group has also found that patients who visited their GP or practice nurse for weight management support did no better than the people trying without weight management support.

Paul Aveyard is the PI of the BWeL trial. A number of the Behavioural Medicine Research group are working on this trial, which is a randomised controlled trial to examine the effectiveness of a brief intervention for weight loss and the active engagement of GPs in supporting weight loss in obese adults.

It is hoped that the results of the trial could make the case for brief interventions for obese people consulting with their GP and introduce widespread simple treatments akin to the NHS Stop Smoking Service. If successful, the intervention could also be introduced in the Quality and Outcomes Framework and influence weight management practice worldwide.

Paul Aveyard is also an Investigator for the WRAP Study (Weight loss Referrals for Adults in Primary care), which aims to evaluate the clinical and cost effectiveness of three weight loss interventions. These are a brief intervention, referral to a commercial provider for 12 weeks or referral for 12 months. The Chief Investigator is Dr Amy Ahern at the Medical Research Council, Human Nutrition Research, Cambridge; the University of Oxford is a regional centre for this study.

Commercial weight loss providers have been shown to have a short term impact following a GP referral. This trial will examine the longer term outcomes of the interventions, analysing which of the programmes is most effective and gives best value for money.

Our Team

Paul Aveyard

Professor of Behavioural Medicine

Susan Jebb

Professor of Diet and Population Health

Helen Atherton

NIHR School for Primary Care Research Fellow

Nicola Lindson-Hawley

Cochrane Managing Editor & Research Fellow

Sarah Morrish

Personal Assistant to Paul Aveyard & Susan Webb

Kathryn Hood

BWeL Trial Administrator

Rachna Begh

UKCTAS Research Fellow

Markus Schichtel

Clinical Researcher

Sarah Tearne

Clincal Trial Manager

David Timmins

Assistant Project Manager

Jamie Hartmann-Boyce

BWeL Trial Administrator

Researchers at the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford, are conducting a study to learn more about the strategies that people use when they are trying to lose weight. If you are interested in being involved, please enter your details here.
If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact us at

For further information about the study, visit our FAQ.