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Yanaina Chavez-Ugalde

PhD student

Children, young people & families programme, Places and communities programme, Changing behaviour at population level programme, Efficient and equitable heath systems theme

University of Bristol

Hear more about Yanaina's work

Yanaina's Q&A

  • What is your research focused on?

    In my research I focus on the commercial determinants of dietary behaviour and obesity, food systems, dietary behaviour in adolescence, and systems science. In my research I use a systems thinking approach to understand the structure of commercial food systems that give rise to obesogenic behaviours at population level.

  • Why is it important?

    Obesity and poor dietary behaviours are complex problems affected (and affecting) multiple-factors at different levels (individual, interpersonal, organisational, community, policy). Taking a “systems approach” to a problem means we are seeking to understand both the bigger picture, the many parts and people within it and how they are connected and how they change over time; it means we try to identify the circular nature of complex causes and effects within the system; and how changing one thing in the system may have unexpected effects elsewhere. With my research I aim to contribute to the development of systems thinking within the context of public health by describing the complexity of the “obesity system” in relation to the commercial determinants of dietary behaviour and obesity at population level and with a focus in adolescents.

  • What do you like about being a part of the NIHR School for Public Health Research

    Being part of an important network of researchers and projects across England. The collaborations I have been able to have with peer-researchers. The possibility to listen, talk to, ask for feedback and the potential collaborations for future research with senior researchers in the SPHR. The approachability of the whole of the SPHR network

  • What skills have you learnt and/or are hoping to learn as part of your PhD?

    I have been able to develop further my skills in research methods, critical thinking, project management, collaboration, and public speaking with different audiences. I have learned better ways to communicate my research findings to the public using visual resources (posters, infographics, images). O have been able to conduct a systematic review and submitted to a peer review journal. I have learned how to conduct participatory action research using System Dynamics and Group Model Building I am currently learning how to build a simulation model to quantify the model of a system which has the potential to be used in practice, policy, and research to identify levers for change in obesity prevention strategies, guide the development of health policies and increase opportunities for primary prevention by anticipating industry responses and by discouraging corporate practices that harm health.

  • What do you hope to do after completing your PhD?

    I would like to apply for a Fellowship within the NIHR Academy (e.g. Doctoral Fellowship, Advanced Fellowship) to develop the implications of my PhD project further. This being, being able to expand on the simulation model for the commercial determinants of dietary behaviour associated with obesity; collaborating with public health practitioners, policymakers and adolescents to test potential policy scenarios for obesity prevention strategies; interviewing food industry stakeholders to understand their mental models / perceptions of their role in dietary behaviour and health; applying the simulation model in different settings and expanding the focus of the model to cover health inequalities and vulnerable groups.


Chavez‑Ugalde, Y., Toumpakari. Z., White, M., De Vocht, F., Jago, R. (2022).  Using group model building to frame the commercial determinants of dietary behaviour in adolescence – proposed methods for online system mapping workshops. BMC Medical Research Methodology. 22(84).

Chavez-Ugalde, Y., Jago, R., Toumpakari, Z., Egan, M., de Vocht, F. (2019) Defining the commercial determinants of obesity in adolescence: a systematic review protocol. PROSPERO. CRD42019137363

Chavez-Ugalde, Y., Jago, R., Toumpakari, Z., Egan, M., Cummins, S., White, M., Hulls, P., de Vocht, F. (2020). Defining the commercial determinants of dietary behaviours associated with obesity, in the general population and in adolescents: systematic review and development of a theoretical framework. IJBNPA

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