Fit Families for the Future: Improving our recognition and response to children and families struggling with obesity

South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust

This project is under way, and will run until March 2020.

  • Project led by the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust, Belfast.
  • Aiming to transform the lives of children and families who are struggling with weight issues.
  • Will implement a multidisciplinary programme incorporating psychology, dietetics and exercise, to empower children and families to achieve better mental wellbeing and improved physical health.

A quarter of children (aged two to 15) in the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust (SEHSCT) area are overweight or obese. Eight per cent are obese and are at risk of developing obesity-related complications such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and musculoskeletal problems. 

In SEHSCT, overweight/obese children have traditionally been managed by paediatricians and dieticians, without any input from physiotherapy or psychology, and without support for family members. Obesity has been medicalised and outcomes have been poor.

This project will develop and introduce an early intervention programme for children with obesity in SEHSCT. Children will attend a 45 minute assessment at a multidisciplinary clinic with a doctor, nurse, dietician and physiotherapist. The team will discuss treatment options and offer group sessions or one-to-one appointments. 

Group sessions, to be held in non-clinical environments such as leisure centres, will focus on nutrition, physical activity and will foster peer support. Multidisciplinary group reviews will take place quarterly, to monitor progress. 

The programme will not only support children to achieve a healthy weight, but will empower families to make healthy choices.

Children who are struggling to make health behaviour changes will be invited to attend a 12-week, one-to-one health coaching programme. 

It is estimated that between 40 and 48 children will go through the programme in the 12-month intervention period. 

Family questionnaires will be used to assess quality of life. Other key outcome measures will include psychological symptoms and self-esteem, physical activity levels, dietary habits, and changes in BMI.

Contact information

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.

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