Childhood obesity continues to remain a major public health priority. It is not only a serious and growing problem for individual children and the wider population but is also a significant contributor to health inequalities. Treating obesity and its consequences is currently estimated to cost the NHS £5.1bn every year. (Department of Health, 2016).
Northumberland was above the UK national average, and over a fifth of reception age (4–5 years) children and over a third of year 6 children (10–11 years) were overweight or obese. Obesity prevalence was higher in boys than girls in both age groups. Obesity prevalence for children living in the most deprived areas in both age groups was double that of those living in the least deprived areas.
A new model of support was piloted for 2017-18 following the UK’s National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) called Northumbria Pro-active Family Support. Pro-active follow up support was offered to children identified as being very overweight and obese (above the 98th and 99th centile) and their families living in the most deprived area of Northumberland.
This resulted in 376 children receiving a letter of invitation to attend any one of 4 multi-agency information/signposting events held locally. Telephone calls were made to offer parents and their children additional support in the form of a Health Trainer led 1-1 intervention, which required the team to have very skilled discussions with families regarding their child’s weight.
The sessions were carried out in the family’s home to embrace a holistic approach; this allowed the intervention to be person centred and specific to the individual needs of the child and their family. Following an initial pre assessment session the remaining 4 meetings would focus upon a specific topic area including: hidden fats and sugars, Eatwell Guide, 5aday, healthy snacks, packed lunch and breakfast and the importance of physical activity.
In addition the team also provided brief interventions to all families contacted but who did not wish to, or could not engage with the intervention at that time.
The team continually ensured that the information provided was the most up to date, evidence based and delivered in a way to meet the requirements of all participants. Other key national programmes were integrated for example, the Change4Life healthy lifestyle messages were discussed and short and long term goal setting encouraged.
A range of partners were provided with the unidentifiable data and invited to attend events including community organisations e.g. Scouts, football teams; Children’s Centres; Active Northumberland; and School Health.
- Average body mass index (BMI) reduced from 27.24kg/M2 to 26.65kg/M2;
- Most children had increased fruit and vegetables eaten per day, with some exceeding the recommended 5 portions;
- Majority of children reporting that they also had an increase in their self-esteem;
- Childhood obesity training sessions for partner organisations were evaluated positively, with participants more confident and knowledgeable about how to raise the issue of weight sensitively and where to refer service users; and
- 100% of families that used the service would recommend it.
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