The UK’s most innovative community-based proramme for tackling childhood obesity today announced a partnership with two of the country’s leading child health institutions.
The MEND (Mind, Exercise, Nutrition…Do it!) Programme, Great Ormond Street Hospital and the University College London, Institute of Child Health, have signed a 20-year agreement to collaborate on developing and disseminating effective obesity prevention and treatment options.
The announcement coincides with the publication of the Foresight report into obesity epidemiology, which predicts an alarming rise in child obesity if large-scale and sustained measures are not put in place. The Foresight report estimates that up to 50 per cent of children will be overweight or obese by 2050 unless radical action is taken.
The new collaboration will see the three organisations working together to further research, centering on the MEND Programme and other services. The MEND Programme is the most successful and widely-available child obesity treatment option in the UK. The 10-week course consists of twice-weekly group sessions including nutritional guidance, behaviour modification and exercise. The MEND Programme’s efficacy was proven through a randomised controlled trial, which followed 107 children on the programme and showed significantly improved key health outcomes 12 months after the programme start. MEND is already offered free of charge to families in more than 150 locations nationwide, rising to 250 locations at the beginning of 2008. This has been made possible with resource from the Big Lottery Fund, J Sainsbury, Sport England and over 70 Primary Care Trusts, Local Authorities and leisure centre operators.
“MEND is one of the few avenues available which really will enable a significant, measurable and sustained reduction in child overweight and obesity levels,” says Paul Sacher, MEND Research Director. “This research partnership will enable us to evaluate whether children who have completed the MEND Programme continue to benefit from improved health in the longer term.”
According to Professor Alan Lucas, Director of the Medical Research Council Child Nutrition Research Centre at the University College London Institute of Child Health, “There can be no question that the current epidemic of obesity, with its origins in childhood, is one of the most critical health issues today with potential to result in massive social and financial costs. This partnership underlines our belief that the MEND Programme has the potential to underpin effective national strategies for obesity treatment and prevention. This has immense implications in terms of promoting a healthy lifestyle in Britain and reducing the risk of disease in later life. I would like to see central Government funding for both research and the practical implementation of the MEND Programme.”
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