RCSI School of Physiotherapy: Obesity Research and Care Group
Following two years of virtual only events, the 29th European Congress on Obesity (ECO) was a blended event with both online and attendance in person options in Maastricht, The Netherlands. The 4-day hybrid event was hosted by The European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO) in conjunction with the International Federation for the Surgery of Obesity and Metabolic Disorders (IFSO). The ECO provides a platform for individuals working in the field of obesity and those affected by obesity to convene, share insight, learn together and establish stronger relations across communities, organisations and countries worldwide.
Members of the RCSI Obesity Research and Care Group actively participated throughout the congress presenting the most recent developments in their work and chairing relevant sessions. Principal Investigator Dr. Grace O’Malley and Researcher Niamh Arthurs participated in policy workshops at ECO, contributing to insight and discussion on national plans for obesity and implementation from policy to practice.
Niamh Arthurs presented on behalf of the RCSI Group’s Sláintecare childhood obesity project in a guided poster presentation, that detailed the process involved in developing the online free and CPD accredited childhood obesity training programme for health professionals in Ireland.
Dr. Louise Tully, Post-doctoral Researcher in the RCSI Obesity Research and Care Group delivered an oral presentation on findings from an HRB-sponsored APA project addressing capacity building for childhood obesity management in the Irish health system. She outlined results of a systematic review on clinical practice guidelines for treating child and adolescent obesity. We were very proud of Dr. Tully who won the ‘The EASO Best Thesis Award 2022’ in a highly competitive process (Please read here). Following presentations from the top three scoring theses, Dr. Tully achieved this prestigious award from the EASO Early Career Network (Details here) for her RCSI StAR-funded Ph.D. on the use of digital healthcare for children with obesity. The use of digital healthcare and telemedicine is a topic of importance to health systems globally, particularly since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Tully specifically investigated user perspectives on barriers and facilitators for implementing paediatric telehealth, the role of mobile health (mHealth) in paediatric obesity management, healthcare utilisation costs for children with obesity and a cost analysis of delivering mHealth interventions compared to face-to-face care.
Dr. Maeve O’Brien Post-doctoral Researcher from the RCSI Obesity Research and Care Group presented details on the development of a communication toolkit for primary care health professionals working in childhood obesity management. This project is funded by EASO and is a collaboration with the RCSI SIM Centre for Simulation, Education and Research.
All of the conference presentations are published and represent ongoing work from the Group and other collaborators including public patient representatives.
Involving the lived experience was a pivotal feature of each day of the congress. The importance of people-first language was emphasised by delegates choosing to wear a green ribbon stating ‘I’m People First’ on their congress lanyard. In addition, the blinded abstract review process screened for the use of people-first language by submitting authors. Public-patient representatives were welcomed and actively involved in the congress as equal partners including the chairing of sessions, presenting, co-authors on posters and abstracts and as a powerful reminder that obesity affects real life and people.
ECO2022 closed with the announcement that the 30th European Congress on Obesity will be in Dublin from May 17th-20th 2023, Chaired by Dr. Grace O’Malley from RCSI Physiotherapy. Plans and preparations are already in place and after winning this bid as the host country, The Association for the Study of Obesity on the Island of Ireland (ASOI) will ensure ‘céad míle fáilte’ (a hundred thousand welcomes) to all who attend ECO2023.
28th European Congress on Obesity 2021
The 28th European Congress on Obesity (ECO) was held virtually as a 4-day online learning platform in Summer 2021. Members of the RCSI Sláintecare team presented their latest research on obesity and chaired sessions throughout the congress. This included the ‘Physical Fitness and Physical Activity’ session chaired by Dr Grace O’Malley on Day 2 of the congress which focused on ‘Childhood and Adolescent Obesity’. Mckenzie Dow (PhD Candidate) provided insight on the ‘Growing Up in Ireland’ data in relation to self-concept across Body Mass Index (BMI) categories and the need to think about protective factors that may be in place to maintain positive self-concept for children with obesity and at risk of low self-concept.
Dr O’Malley also highlighted important aspects of eHealth for children living with obesity including the necessity of documenting adverse events, safety and cost in all trials and treating patients as humans with their own preferences related to monitoring health outcomes beyond BMI. Furthermore, Dr O’Malley described how to capture meaningful data for modelling overweight and obesity outcomes and how perceptions of treatment can differ amongst service-users; outlining the significance of asking service-users about the meaning of treatment to them in order to inform personalised care.
Louise Tully, another member of the RCSI Obesity Care and Research Group presented her work on Barriers and facilitators for implementing paediatric telehealth: rapid review of user perspectives (Full paper available Here). Ms Tully’s research emphasised the need to assess accessibility and practicality of paediatric telehealth interventions with all users before implementation and to ensure that nobody loses access to care through digitalisation of services. This work was complemented by patient representatives who provided their views on how digital technologies have helped during the Covid-19 lockdowns to include those who cannot travel to appointments or support meetings due to physical issues and how delivering online services can help overcome some financial barriers of face-to-face appointments.
The European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO) as organisers of ECO actively encouraged the use of people first language. Anyone submitting an abstract to the congress had to first read and accept an abstract submission briefing note on person first language. Included in this briefing was the definition:
Person-first language is the standard for respectfully addressing people with chronic diseases, rather than labelling them by their illness. Whatever disease a person may have, it may not define them as persons or individuals. So rather than saying “obese people” we should rephrase this term as “people with obesity”.
The patient’s voice was well represented and welcomed throughout the congress with many sessions featuring people with obesity as presenters or panelists. The European Coalition for People living with Obesity (ECPO) delivered several sessions aimed at empowering congress delegates to advocate for those with obesity and ensure the patient perspective is represented in research, policy and guidelines. Additionally, raising awareness and knowledge of the harmful impact of weight bias and stigma was a clear and resounding message throughout.
Communication workshops during the congress were valuable opportunities for healthcare professionals, researchers and other delegates to develop knowledge about discussing weight and obesity. Dr Michael Crotty a General Practitioner (GP) from Ireland, conducted role play examples of a GP communicating about weight in the clinical setting with ECPO patient representatives Susie Birney (Ireland) and Andrew Healing (UK). The Communicating Science Workshop which also featured Dr Michael Crotty offered excellent insight and information on developing translational science tools to support engagement and uptake of information, tailoring scientific messages for public engagement, becoming a public figure in communicating science and getting messages across in broadcast media.
EASO hope to host ECO as an in-person event in 2022 in Maastricht, the Netherlands.
Further details about ECO2021 can be viewed here
All-island Obesity Action Forum webinar
The All-island Obesity Action Forum in association with safefood, and the Associations for the Study of Obesity in Ireland (ASOI) and UK Northern Ireland regional group (ASO NI) hosted an online webinar on the 10th of November 2020 titled: ‘The hidden influencer – tackling marketing of unhealthy food to children in today’s digital world.’ The event highlighted the latest evidence on the impact of food and drink marketing to children and young people. It also called upon specific areas for action.
The effect these ads have on children are certainly not to be underestimatedMs Diane Charlton from the Irish Coalition for People Living with Obesity (ICPO)
The event commenced with the crucial voice of Ms Diane Charlton from the Irish Coalition for People Living with Obesity (ICPO) who shared a parent’s perspective on the impact of marketing unhealthy food to children. Ms Charlton provided key insights on the lasting effects of targeted marketing to children, and the “unhelpful feelings of guilt and shame” it leaves when such marketing leads to consumption of the products. Ms Charlton also emphasised that “the effect these ads have on children are certainly not to be underestimated” and the challenges that digital marketing presents for parents.
Dr Mimi-Tatlow-Golden followed with the most recent evidence on the effectiveness and impact of marketing and in particular digital marketing of unhealthy food to children in Ireland and around the world. She concluded with the inevitable – that advertising of unhealthy food boosts sales and consumption and that advertising to those most vulnerable must be regulated. It was clear that trying to educate and ‘nudge’ healthy choices is impotent in countering the power of advertising of unhealthy foods.
Dr Mimi-Tatlow-Golden’s presentation highlighted:
Consumptions studies: Children and teens eat more after viewing ads for unhealthy foods, compared to non-foods or healthy food
- Holiday camps – TV & game ads (Norman et al 2018a, 2018b)
- YouTube influencer promotion (Cotes et al 2018a, 2018b)
- Ads on websites and social media (Buchanan et al 2017 & others)
- Advergames studies (Folkvord et al)
Exposure and power studies
(Extensive advertising, many platforms)
- brands employ strategies to target adolescents and particularly encourage their engagement and increase virality
- food brands aimed at children are dominated by unhealthy items
- children (including adolescents) interact with food marketing on digital and social media
- it results in eating more food (and more unhealthy items)
Dr João Breda from the World Health Organisation outlined national policy options and the WHO/Europe monitoring framework, known as CLICK to assist member states in monitoring digital marketing of unhealthy products to children.
Dr Dr João Breda’s presentation highlighted the WHO/Europe CLICK framework:
- We need to be innovative to face the challenge, otherwise, we will be in the same position in five years.
- CLICK was developed as a futuristic framework, but today several Member States are using it, including an App developed by the NCD office, Moscow.
- We are piloting it and also undertaking a large validation study in Canada.
- We have a workshop with six countries piloting CLICK in November. Member States can learn from the experience of others and make the best choice for them.
- European Regions plans to lead the way to face the challenge of digital marketing, that will include choosing some innovative methods out of our comfort zone if we are to be successful.
- We hope other countries and regions will also prioritise the issue to face the increasing global challenge.
Dr Frans Folkvord from Tilburg University, The Netherlands discussed how marketing techniques can be used to promote healthy foods. One interesting stance was the influence of the subconscious on behaviour, particularly decision making with subconscious activation of marketing cues and the need
for advertising literacy to make rational decisions. A key message from Dr Folkvord is the necessity for regulation of product placement.
The final speaker was Ms Ursula O’Dwyer who provided an overview of the ‘Best ReMap’ work, a European project that Ireland and Portugal are leading.
Presentations and key insights from the event can be sourced here