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Dr Oli Williams makes shortlist for major accolade

Former ARC East Midlands researcher Dr Oli Williams has been named as a finalist for a prestigious national award.

Dr Williams has been shortlisted for the 2020 Medical Humanities Awards in the Best Early Career category for The Weight of Expectation project. This project began when Oli was a PhD student at the University of Leicester and continued throughout subsequent research roles at CLAHRC West (now ARC West) and CLAHRC East Midlands (now ARC East Midlands). Both CLAHRCs supported the dissemination of this work which included an evidence-based comic created in collaboration with illustrator Jade Sarson.

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) – in association with the Wellcome Trust – has announced the 2020 shortlist, which showcases the best research taking place at the interface of the arts and humanities and medicine and celebrates its positive impact on medical outcomes.

The Medical Humanities Awards recognise the achievements of people and projects helping to understand and transform the quality of life, health and wellbeing of the population using arts and humanities research.

They celebrate and showcase the important but unsung work being done by academics, health professionals, voluntary organisations and communities. The aim is to encourage further multidisciplinary work that brings together the arts and humanities, healthcare, health and wellbeing.

Commenting on Dr Oli Williams’ work, the shortlist states the project “has revealed how the stigma of obesity actually triggered psychosomatic stress similar to feeling embarrassed”.

It goes on to say: “Working with weight-loss groups in one of the most deprived neighbourhoods in England he was able to demonstrate how obesity stigma confused people’s experience of their bodies and made them feel worse.

“These findings helped deepen understanding of the lived experience of being overweight, as well as why stigma is an inappropriate – and ineffective – means of promoting healthy weight-loss.”

After completing his PhD, Dr Williams was subsequently awarded the NIHR CLAHRC West Dan Hill Fellowship in Health Equity which he held at the University of Bath. 

He later re-joined the University of Leicester in the Department of Health Sciences working in the SAPPHIRE Group and is now based at King’s College London after being awarded a THIS Institute Postdoctoral Fellowship. 

His research focuses on health inequalities, the promotion of healthy lifestyles, obesity, weight stigma, equitable intervention and co-production. He co-founded the art collective Act With Love (AWL) to promote social change. The Weight of Expectation comic is one example of its work.

Published on: 18 Nov 2020