The London Boroughs of Islington and Camden run a successful child weight management programme called the Healthy Living Practitioner Service that offers one-to-one support from a nutritionist attached to the school nursing teams. This case study forms part of our resource on the National Child Measurement Programme.
But, similar to other areas, each year high numbers ofchildren are being identified as overweight and so thecouncils decided to direct resources towards those that needed them the most.
Over the past year the service has piloted a different offer. Now all children who are overweight, but do not fall into the very overweight category, are firstly referred to a universal service (tier one) called Families for Life.
It is a group-based scheme for children and their families, which focuses on healthy eating, cooking and increasing physical activity levels and is open to anyone interested in learning more about healthy lifestyles, regardless of weight status. The programmes are hosted in early years’ settings, local schools and community venues and run for four to six weeks.
The two boroughs have also launched an Enhanced Healthy Living Practitioner Service that provides additional input from psychologists to offer family and one-to-one therapy. Training and consultation is also provided to other professionals to help with the most complex cases. The pilot is exploring different ways to engage and support children and their families with complex needs.
The Families for Life’service and the Healthy Living Practitioner Serviceare promoted in the letters sent out with the NCMP result and all referrals into the enhanced service are triaged via a new multi-disciplinary team meeting.
Follow-up calls are made by school nurses and the Families for Life team to see if the families want to join an open day to hear about the service on offer or sign up to one of the programmes. Three-quarters of families offered the ‘Families for Life’ service have taken up the offer.
It is still early days, but already there are signs the changes are having an impact. The ‘Families for Life’ is proving popular, which in turn is helping the Healthy Living Practitioner Service target more intensive support on the children who need it the most.
And this year the councils are looking to make another change to the way they handle the results of the NCMP. When letters are sent out to parents, the plan is to send trained volunteers and staff to a selection of school gates to make themselves available to parents.
Camden and Islington Public Health Strategist Julie Edgecombe said: “There’s a real opportunity here to engage with parents. The school gate is an important part of the school community and when the letters are sent, parents tend to have all sorts of questions. By making some staff available we will be able to answer them and hopefully encourage them to make use of the services and support we have on offer.”
Public Health Strategist
Camden and Islington