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The University of Southampton

Professor Barrie Margetts BSc (hons), MSc, PhD

Emeritus Professor

Professor Barrie Margetts's photo
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Professor Barrie Margetts is Emeritus Professor within Medicine at the University of Southampton.

Having grown up in Australia, Professor Margetts was shocked when as a new graduate he came face-to-face with a malnourished aboriginal child, and did not know what to do. This lead him to get some training in nutrition and subsequently in nutritional epidemiology so that he could work out what to do, and how to apply this to a wider population. On moving to the United Kingdome he took up a post with Professor David Barker at the MRC Environmental epidemiology unit. Professor Margetts was fortunate enough to have found the Hertfordshire records, spending several years supervising the computer coding and checking of these data; these data have formed the basis of many crucial findings in the developmental origins of health and adult disease.

In the early 1990s Professor Margetts developed training and support to strengthen capacity in nutritional epidemiology which subsequently led onto developing public health nutrition. This early work lead to a text book- Design Concepts in Nutritional Epidemiology. Recently co-published a textbook (written with roger Hughes) Practical Public Health Nutrition, which followe up an early text on Public Health Nutrition. In 2008 the World Public Health Nutrition Association was formed and he was elected its first president. The association will host a major international meeting in Rio de Janeiro in April 2012.

Most recent research and scholarship has focused on work in India and Africa, and increasingly trying to understand how to turn knowledge into policy into action. He has been a consultant over a number of years for the World health Organization, as well as various development agencies and national governments.

He is currently a Trustee for Riders for Health, a social enterprise charity aimed at strengthening the delivery of effective health care in Africa by means of improving transport infrastructure.

Professor Margetts founded the international journal Public Health Nutritoon in 1998 and was editor in chief until 2007. He is currently chair of the editorial advisory board for a new International Journal World Nutrition.

Professor Margetts was awarded an honorary doctorate from The North West University in South Africa in 2009 for his work on building research capacity in nutrition in South Africa.

He is a Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health


BSc (hons) Anatomy and Human Biology, University of Western Australia, 1975
MSC, Nutrition, University of London, 1978
PhD, University of Western Australia, 1985

Appointments held

1999-present Visiting Professor , North West University, South Africa

2009-present Visiting Professor , University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

2011- Visiting Professor , King Saud University, Kingdome of Saudi Arabia

1993-present Senior Lecturer/Reader/Professor , University of Southampton

1986-1989 Nutritionist , MRC Environmental Epidemiology Unit, University of Southampton

1978-1985 Research Officer in the National Health and Medical Research Council Unit in Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, University Department of Medicine, Queen Elizabeth II Medical Centre, Perth, Western Australia

Research interests

Critical analysis of strategies to improve maternal and child nutrition and health

We recently coordinated a pooled analysis of all major trials that assessed the impact of multiple micro-nutrient supplementation on maternal and child health outcomes. Current scholarship is exploring ways to strengthen a food based, community development approaches to strengthen nutrition. We have one PhD project that is looking at ways to improve the effectiveness of current approaches to improving diet in Malaysia. This work is being done in collaboration with partners in Brazil who have developed a new way of grouping foods that we believe will make it easier for people to select and eat a healthy diet, and that will promote and protect local food systems and culture.

The prevalence of food allergy and weaning practices in a birth cohort of UK infants

Food allergy is on the rise in most countries and this study is exploring the role that weaning practices may have on the development of early symptoms

Mumbai Maternal Nutrition Project (Mumbai, India)

The main hypothesis is that enhancing the micronutrient quality of women’s diet from pre-conception to delivery improves both foetal growth and functional outcomes in their children. This trial is nested within a longer term project designed to empower women to independently improve their own nutrition and that of their children. Women living in slum areas in Mumbai are recruited, given specially prepared nutritious snacks, and followed up until they have given birth, and then the children are followed up to assess whether improving diet before pregnancy has both short and long term benefits for health.

Strengthening the translation of research in to action

A major activity that has brought together partners from across the university, the MRC, and the city has been encapsulated by the Southampton Initiative For Health . This activity has arisen out of findings from the Southampton Women’s Survey that women of low educational attainment (a proxy measure for wider issues) have a poorer quality of diet.

We have just completed an intervention study in jersey that assessed the effectiveness of simple family based activity support for overweight and obese children. This study showed that simple interventions could reduce the rate of increase in obesity compared with current usual practice

On-going collaboration with North West University, South Africa

Collaboration began about ten years ago with a mix of training/capacity building and research activities. Research collaboration began with the analysis of a large population study (called the THUSA study). Some key areas of outcome from this work include elucidation of the impact on nutrition transition on health and the interplay between nutrition and HIV in this population. Other projects have included:

  • Food Fortification programme in South Africa - a PhD student from South Africa undertook a
    controlled trial of the effectiveness of food fortification on the nutritional status of children.
  • Development of a Nutrition Policy framework for Lesotho- A PhD student from Lesotho developed
    a policy framework for nutrition for Lesotho, and we have been working with the
    Ministry of Health to implement the programme.
  • A controlled trial to assess whether increasing physical activity could reduce the burden of the
    metabolic syndrome in children living in informal settlements.
  • PURE study: this is cohort study of urban and rural sub-samples in South Africa
    undergoing the nutrition transition.
  • Support for the development of an African Institute of Food Security
  • Beginning a case-control study on diet and breast cancer in Soweto supported by IARC funded
    Post-doc fellow.
Making nutrition policy more effective: the key gap in workforce capacity

We have been involved in a number of consultations for the World Health Organization that have highlighted the gaps and challenges in translating policy into effective action. A major constraint is a lack of an appropriately trained workforce, and we are working with a number of partners around the world to address this gap.

Collaboration with the King Saud University

The aim of this work is to strengthen the research base in public health nutrition in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and in particular to develop evidence based policy that will address key public health problems in the Kingdom. At present one PhD student is working on the policy environment a around childhood overweight; another project is looking at determinants of low rates of exclusive breastfeeding, including the attitudes of families and health professionals.


Primary Care, Population Sciences and Medical Education

Affiliate Department(s)

Population Health Sciences Research group

Research project(s)

Partnership for Improvement & Innovation in Dietary Assessment Technology (DIET@NET)

Postgraduate student supervision

Currently supervising 5 PhD students
Currently coordinating research dissertations in MSC in Public Health Nutrition

Faculty of Medicine

Various committees

University of Southampton

Member of Senate

National and International responsibilities

President, World Public Health Nutrition Association
Council Member, International Society for Development Origins of Health and Adult Diseases
SHA Advisory Board
Fit4Life steering committee, Southampton PCT.
External advisor to an Australian government project aimed at strengthening capacity in the public health nutrition workforce

Established and course director (1996-2008) MSc in Public Health Nutrition

Professor Barrie Margetts
Faculty of Medicine, Room AB215, Mailpoint 801, South Academic Block, University Hospital Southampton, Tremona Road, Southampton, SO16 6YD

Room Number: SGH//MP801


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