Published: 19 December 2017

Tackling childhood obesity through a family-friendly intervention

Lead Researcher: Dr Grace O’Malley, University College Cork, Oxford University, Temple Street Children’s University Hospital

HRB-funded research led to face-to-face and mobile/remote interventions being developed for children with obesity and their families.
In Summary

Around a quarter of children in Ireland are overweight, and 8% are obese, which raises the risk of short- and long-term health problems. A HRB-funded study assessed the health of children referred to Temple Street Children’s University Hospital for obesity treatment, and developed a successful face-to-face and mobile intervention to help children with obesity move to a healthier weight.

The Problem

Tens of thousands of children in Ireland are overweight or obese, which is linked to immediate physical and emotional health issues and can sow the seeds for chronic disease in adulthood, such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

The Project

Dr Grace O’Malley assessed the physical and mental health of children attending Temple Street Children’s University Hospital for obesity. She developed a year‑long face‑to‑face intervention for children with obesity and their families, which involved representatives from paediatricians, physiotherapy, dietetics, psychology and nursing. Because many families find it difficult to travel to Dublin for treatment, Dr O’Malley also developed and tested out a remote version of the intervention to enable many more families to take part.

The Outcomes

We now know that:

  • About half of the children with obesity in the study experienced pain and high blood pressure, and many experienced low mood.
  • An evidence‑based obesity intervention developed in line with best‑practice can be delivered effectively in the Irish paediatric clinical setting.

The findings of the study have helped to shape the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland’s action plan on obesity. The face‑to‑face intervention is helping around 100‑150 obese children each year. Initial trials of the remote intervention for obese children are promising.

Dr Grace O’Malley says:

'A really positive impact of the project is that we have developed the first intervention in the country for children with obesity and their families, and we have a really good evidence base for it. We have been able to raise further funding to continue the work, so more children and their families can benefit in the short‑ and long‑term'.