Skip navigation

New funding for research into remote healthcare for eating disorders during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond

10th June 2021

Northumbria University health and cyber psychologist Dr Dawn Branley-Bell has been awarded a Medical Research Foundation Fellowship – one of four projects supported by £1.1 million of new funding to tackle eating disorders and self-harm.

A new project led by Research Innovation Fellow Dr Dawn Branley-Bell from Northumbria University’s Department of Psychology will explore what we can learn about the causes, prevention and future treatment of eating disorders following the rapid transition to remote care during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Approximately 1.25 million people in the UK have an eating disorder. Recent research by Dr Branley-Bell suggests that many individuals with eating disorders have experienced worsened symptoms during the Covid-19 pandemic, and reported concerns around the suitability of healthcare delivered remotely.

Such concerns included, for example, individuals seeing themselves more often on video calls, giving more opportunities to be self-critical of their appearance, or being asked to weigh themselves at home.

Building on her previous research, Dr Branley-Bell will now work alongside people with lived experience of eating disorders, healthcare providers, eating disorder charities, technology designers and other experts in the field to identify why symptoms worsened during the pandemic and to explore the challenges experienced with remote treatment.

The project will also look at how technology can be improved to increase the efficacy and security of remote eating disorder treatment. Dr Branley-Bell will work closely with people with lived experiences of eating disorders to ultimately co-design new technology and recommendations for how it should be used going forward.

Commenting on her Fellowship, Dr Dawn Branley-Bell said: “Even after Covid-19 is under control, there remains many other situations which prevent individuals from accessing face-to-face treatment. Remote care can ensure access to vital help and support. By learning from experiences during the pandemic, this research will help to improve our understanding of eating disorders and inform future healthcare, technology design, guidance and policy.”

Dr Angela Hind, Chief Executive at the Medical Research Foundation, said: “Before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, eating disorders were already affecting increasing numbers of young people. Today the need for new research insight is even greater, as it’s been an immensely challenging year for many young people with these devastating conditions.

“We’re excited to see what Dr Branley-Bell’s project uncovers about the impact of remote healthcare for eating disorders. These findings will be crucial as we begin to emerge from the pandemic, and will also help to guide treatment of eating disorders long into the future.”

The MedicalResearch Foundation scheme provides postdoctoral researchers the opportunity to start independent, internationally competitive research careers in the field of eating disorders and self-harm.

This research project, and the Medical Research Foundation’s previous investments in eating disorders and self-harm research, have been made possible by a gift in Will from Catherine Evans. 

Help the Medical Research Foundation continue to support much-needed research into eating disorders and self-harm, by joining their team of walkers for the Thames Bridges Trek on 11 September 2021. Find out more on their website.

If you’re worried about your own or someone else’s health, you can contact Beat, the UK’s eating disorder charity, on 0808 801 0677 or  

comments powered by Disqus


Department of Psychology

Northumbria University's Department of Psychology demonstrates a commitment to excellence, manifest in first-class teaching and learning underpinned by high quality research, and promoting business facing professional engagement.

News and Features

This is the place to find all the latest news releases, feature articles, expert comment, and video and audio clips from Northumbria University

a sign in front of a crowd

Northumbria Open Days

Open Days are a great way for you to get a feel of the University, the city of Newcastle upon Tyne and the course(s) you are interested in.

Research at Northumbria

Research at Northumbria

Research is the life blood of a University and at Northumbria University we pride ourselves on research that makes a difference; research that has application and affects people's lives.

NU World

Explore NU World

Find out what life here is all about. From studying to socialising, term time to downtime, we’ve got it covered.

Latest News and Features

Military uniform
Nursing Degree Apprenticeship shortlisted for national award
Simulated learning using virtual reality recognised as example of best practice in nursing education
Mothers working on the quilts at the community workshops hosted by the researchers.
Greenland Ice Sheet near Kangerlussuaq, Greenland
A three-year research project, led by academics from Northumbria University, aims to better connect the care system and expand it include creative health approaches such as art, crafts, sports, gardening or cooking to provide holistic support tailored to individuals. Getty Images.
Dark green fritiliary (Speyeria aglaja) is a species for which local extinctions have been linked to a warming climate. Photo by Alistair Auffret.
Bridget Phillipson stood with Vice-Chancellor Andy Long and Roberta Blackman-woods

Back to top