- Led by the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust (SEHSCT), Belfast.
- Aimed to transform the lives of children and families who are struggling with weight issues.
- Implemented a multidisciplinary programme incorporating psychology, dietetics and exercise, to empower children and families to achieve better mental wellbeing and improved physical health.
- Ran between April 2019 and April 2020.
Eight per cent of children (aged four to 16) in SEHSCT have a body mass index (BMI) in the 98th centile, which means they are obese and at risk of developing obesity-related complications such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and musculoskeletal problems.
In SEHSCT, obese children are traditionally managed by paediatricians and dieticians, without input from physiotherapy or psychology, and without support for family members. Obesity is medicalised and outcomes are poor.
Fit Families for the Future was developed to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of obese children through the adoption of healthier habits.
Children were referred to Fit Families by paediatricians, GPs and allied health professionals. Families attended a clinic assessment with a doctor, physiotherapist, psychologist and dietitian, and an action plan was co-produced.
Treatment included multidisciplinary group evening classes focusing on education, one-to-one family health coaching including home and school visits, and one-to-one input from dietetics and/or physiotherapy.
Over one year, 58 families attended a Fit Families clinic and 44 families participated in educational evening classes and/or health coaching sessions. Of the evening class participants, 68% of the children reduced their BMI. Questionnaires showed that following the classes, 59% of families were actively minimising unhealthy treats and 65% were weighing and measuring out food portions more often
There was a non-attendance rate of 26%, which was challenging, but is also a well-known barrier for childhood obesity initiatives.
The project team are looking to secure funding to sustain a cost-effective, long-term version of the programme, and to reach a larger population by expanding the inclusion criteria to BMI> 95th centile.
For more information about this project, please contact Dr Anne-Marie McClean, Paediatric Registrar and Clinical Leadership Fellow, South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust.