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Penny Breeze

Post-doctoral launching fellow

Places & communities programme, Efficient and equitable health systems theme

University of Sheffield

Penny's fellowship experience

My SPHR launching fellowship has provided me with some incredible opportunities to develop my research leadership skills, build an international support network and build an exciting research plan to continue to contribute new and impactful research outputs. During my fellowship I have achieved the following:

1. Develop a short and medium term research plan to evaluate the health economic benefits of dietary policies acting at both the individual and population-level to achieve multiple benefits to reduce obesity, health inequalities and environmental harms.

2. Lead and contribute to the development of a health economic modelling approach to evaluate the benefits of dietary intervention.

3. Lead and contribute to multiple research funding grants, with two notable successes.

4. Develop my skills in complex systems science modelling through agent -based modelling approaches.

5. Raise my academic profile nationally and internationally building new interdisciplinary collaborations with those outside my department.

A highlight of the fellowship programme has been the opportunity to extend my research network, build relationships with academics and stakeholders, and use these interactions to refine and develop my research proposals going forward. The opportunities for network development are summarised below.

– Developing the research bid to the NIHR was an incredibly challenging, but valuable experience for me. The support I received from collaborators at Teesside University and City University really helped to extend the research proposal and build my confidence to lead this programme grant.

– Collaboration with Sheffield City Council to understand their areas of policy focus on food, and the importance of evaluations and evidence to support policy implementation.

– Developing a relationship with partners at Sustain and working to understand how they can contribute to our evaluations, stakeholder engagements and disseminations.

– Developing a network of academics from the University of Sydney and the New South Wales cancer council who are working in related fields to apply modelling approaches to evaluate public health interventions. These networks have been useful in shaping my future research proposals and develop avenues for global impact from my future research plans.

Research Interests

How health economic evidence can be used to support public health decision-making. Penny is looking at the health and economic impact of diet and how complex systems models can be used to evaluate the costs and benefits of food policies.

Research projects

Development and application of reporting guidelines for efficiency, equity and systems approaches (WP1) Evaluating the efficiency and equity impact of food policies to improve population health (WP2) Evaluating the health, social and economic impact of equitable public mental health interventions (WP3) Evaluating the impact of childhood public mental health interventions on long term health and wider societal outcomes (WP4)

Practice Placement

Penny worked at Sheffield City Council as an Advisor on a local campaign to reduce sugar consumption in Sheffield. During her placement Penny collaborated with members of the Public Health team with an interest in local food policy. Penny advised on an ongoing project to evaluate the impact of the "Sheffield's sweet enough" marketing campaign. Penny worked with the team and partners at local leisure centres and venues to implement the campaign and identify what foods to target and how to publicise the campaign within venues. Penny says "The collaborations I have participated in with Sheffield City Council have been very rewarding and provide a very useful context to see how the types of policies I plan to evaluate in my research (advertising, marketing, fiscal) may be received and perceived by other stakeholders". If you are looking for a practice placement Penny suggests "I would recommend that other early career researchers plan practice placements. However, I think that the challenges in establishing these should be communicated and flexible arrangements offered if staff will find it difficult to take time away from their regular duties".

Penny's Academic Career Journey

Whilst completing her NIHR SPHR post-doctoral fellowship Penny has been awarded an NIHR public health research grant to evaluate the health, economic, employment, inequalities and environmental impacts of food taxes in the UK. Penny is also a Co-investigator on two other research grants and will lead the health economic analysis for these trials. Penny continues working at the University of Sheffield and plans to develop a growing team of researchers with an interest in evaluating interventions to tackle obesity and diabetes in the UK. Penny says:

I am excited to start co-leading my first large programme grant and work with a multi-disciplinary team across three Universities. My aim is that this research will support my research fellowship proposal to develop a complex systems infrastructure to evaluate food policies to coordinate and optimise a strategy to reduce obesity and improve population health.

Penny completed her PhD in 2013 and was involved in a number of projects with the NIHR School for Public Health Research exploring the health, economic and equity impacts of public health policies in the UK.

Penny’s most important research contribution to date was the initial design and development of a microsimulation model for the evaluation of prevention interventions for type 2 diabetes. The model was developed to allow flexible evaluation of prevention interventions targeting alternative risk groups, from population wide interventions (soft drinks taxes) to individually targeted interventions (Diabetes Prevention Programme). The model has been used in an update to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence Public Health Guidance on prevention of people at high risk of Type 2 diabetes in 2017. The model was adapted for projects with NHS England and Public Health England (PHE) to support their decision-making in diabetes prevention policy. The simulation has been adapted into two PHE return on investment tools to support local authorities to assess the health and cost impacts of diabetes prevention policies and cardiovascular risk reduction activities.

Penny’s current research interests focus on the methods of modelling complex food and dietary systems to improve public health decision-making. Common problems undermining the use of economic evidence in Public Health decisions include an absence of controlled trials; short studies; surrogate outcomes or self-reported data rather than objective measures of individuals; lack of generalisability to local contexts; lack of consideration of equity impacts and incomplete communication of economic outcomes. Penny’s training plan will focus on developing a complex systems model to estimate food policy effects on, health, equity, the environment and economic outcomes in simulation models to support public health decision-making. Penny will work with local public health decision makers and the public to develop tools to aid decision making and grant applications to conduct further research into the complex system of food purchasing, waste, and their impact on health and the economy.

Penny is also pursuing an ongoing interest in the relationships between health and work and hopes to extend work in this area to explore how decision-makers can estimate the impact of health policies on income and employment at a local area level.


  • 2020
  • NIHR SPHR Post-doctoral launching fellow
  • University of Sheffield
  • 2016
  • Research Fellow
  • University of Sheffield
  • 2013
  • PhD
  • University of Sheffield
  • 2012
  • Research Associate
  • University of Sheffield


Bates, S. E., Thomas, C., Islam, N., Ahern, A. L., Breeze, P., Griffin, S., & Brennan, A. (2022). Using health economic modelling to inform the design and development of an intervention : estimating the justifiable cost of weight loss maintenance in the UK. BMC Public Health, 22(1). doi:10.1186/s12889-022-12737-5

Richards, R., Jones, R. A., Whittle, F., Hughes, C. A., Hill, A. J., Lawlor, E. R., . . . Ahern, A. L. (2022). Development of a web-based, guided self-help, acceptance and commitment therapy-based intervention for weight loss maintenance: evidence-, theory-, and person-based approach.. Jmir Formative Research, 6(1). doi:10.2196/31801

Marr, C., Breeze, P., & Caton, S. J. (2021). Examination of dietary intake of UK preschool children by varying carers : evidence from the 2008-2016 UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey. British Journal of Nutrition. doi:10.1017/s0007114521004712

Marr, C., Breeze, P., & Caton, S. (2022). A comparison between parent and grandparent dietary provision, feeding styles and feeding practices when caring for preschool-aged children. Appetite, 168. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2021.105777

Bates, S., Norman, P., Breeze, P., Brennan, A., & Ahern, A. (2022). Mechanisms of action in a behavioral weight-management program: latent growth curve analysis. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 56(1), 64-77. doi:10.1093/abm/kaab019

Marr, C., Reale, S., Breeze, P., & Caton, S. (2021). Grandparental dietary provision, feeding practices and feedings styles when caring for preschool-aged grandchildren: a systematic mixed methods review. Obesity Reviews, 22(4). doi:10.1111/obr.13157

Breeze, P., Thomas, C., Thokala, P., LaFortune, L., Brayne, C., & Brennan, A. (2020). The impact of including costs and outcomes of dementia in a health economic model to evaluate lifestyle interventions to prevent diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Medical Decision Making, 40(7), 912-923. doi:10.1177/0272989X20946758

Thomas, C., Brennan, A., Squires, H., Brenner, G., Bagguley, D., Woods, H., . . . Breeze, P. (2020). What are the cost-savings and health benefits of improving detection and management for six high cardiovascular risk conditions in England? An economic evaluation. BMJ Open, 10(9). doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2020-037486


Bates, S., Breeze, P., Norman, P., & Brennan, A. (2021). Exploring the cost effectiveness of behavioural weight-management interventions based on the expected impact on mechanisms of action : a pre-trial health economic modelling study. In The Lancet Vol. 398 (pp. 23). Virtual conference: Elsevier. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(21)02566-6

Breeze, P., Sworn, K., Abraham, S., McGrane, E., Cantrell, A., & Brennan, A. (2021). Estimating the health impact of individual’s dietary change across multiple physiological outcomes: a conceptual and simulation model. In The Lancet Vol. 398 (pp. S27). Elsevier BV. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(21)02570-8

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