Study to find babies' risk of becoming overweight

Published: 18 May 2015 at 14:42

New computer programme allows health visitors to talk to parents and intervene.

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Anglia Ruskin University is leading a study of an innovative digital resource which will allow parents to see if their baby has a higher risk of becoming overweight as they get older. 

The study team has developed a user friendly, multimedia computer programme called ProAsk (Proactive Assessment of Overweight Risk during Infancy). ProAsk uses data based on questions answered by parents and carers to determine how likely it is a baby will develop a weight problem when they are older, compared to other babies. 

Questions are based on identified risk factors such as parental weight and lifestyle during pregnancy, baby’s birth weight and growth, which research has shown increase the risk of a baby becoming overweight as they get older. During home visits, health visitors will ask parents to enter this information into the programme which will be delivered via a tablet computer.

The study will examine whether parents and carers find ProAsk helpful and whether health visitors can use the results to tailor their advice to parents, who can explore possible ways to help keep their babies at a healthy weight. 

Sarah Redsell, Professor of Public Health at Anglia Ruskin, is the principal investigator for the study. She said:

“Children who are above a healthy weight are more likely to be ill and have time off school. Being very overweight in childhood can also sow the seeds for health problems in later life such as heart disease and diabetes.” 

“One approach is to try and intervene early in life. The information we get from this study will help us understand whether or not parents/carers would like to know about this risk, and if so whether health visitors can work with them to help them understand how they might lower the risk for their baby.”

The project will be carried out in Nottingham and Cambridgeshire with Cris Glazebrook, Professor of Health Psychology at the University of Nottingham, as principal investigator for the Nottingham site.  Nottingham City Care Partnership and Cambridge Community Services NHS Trust have agreed to work with Anglia Ruskin together with the Universities of Nottingham, Lincoln and Cambridge on the 18-month study, which is funded by the Medical Research Council.  The ProAsk digital tool is being developed by the Health e-Learning and Media (HELM) group based in the School of Health Sciences at Nottingham.