Like many areas, Solihull has a comprehensive support programme in place for children identified as overweight and obese through NCMP. But with over 18 per cent of local children with overweight or with obesity in reception year, the programme has also prompted the council to start considering what can be done to support children pre-school. This case study forms part of our resource on the National Child Measurement Programme.
Senior Solihull Active Officer Sadie Walker said: “If we can spot who is overweight earlier we may be more effective at tackling the issue. It has got us thinking about what support is in place and what training is available for staff. We commissioned Warwick University to carry out some research for us, which showed that health staff, such as health visitors, GPs and school nurses were not that confident about raising the issue of weight.”
In response to this, the public health team organised a training session, Why Raise the Issue of Weight?, last summer. It was delivered by a dietician and was based around behavioural change techniques, teaching participants to ask open questions and engage parents. Nearly 40 health visitors and schools nurses attended with an evaluation showing it increased their confidence and ability to ask open questions by a third.
Ms Walker said: “It was just a half-day session, but it really seemed to have an impact. We are now thinking about running it again with other early years workforce, and we are keen to get GPs engaged. We have a number of public health champions in GP practices, mainly practice nurses and front-of-house staff, so we will look to promote it to them at our regular events.”
Alongside this, talks are under way with health visitors to introduce a BMI check at the two-and-a-half-year check-up. But, if this is rolled out, there is a recognition that there will need to be a support offer in place for families where children are identified as overweight.
Currently the council runs a 12-week programme called Eat Well, Move More, but it is aimed at children over the age of four. It is offered to schools based on the results of NCMP data. Last year 17 programmes of up to 20 children each were run There are also a number of community programmes for children who do not have access to a school-based programme, while one-to-one support is also available if a community scheme is not within easy reach. One option would be to offer a bespoke version of this to younger children.
But as well as exploring that, Solihull is looking at how it can increase uptake of the community programmes. It plans to run a pilot in 2019, which will see health trainers contact parents via mobile phones. Currently, those with overweight and obese children receive letters inviting them to take part.
“We have the phone numbers in the system so thought we should try using them. It might just help us engage with parents in another way,” added Ms Walker.
Senior Active Officer