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 (More about award). Following presentations from the top three scoring theses, Dr. Tully achieved this prestigious award from the EASO Early Career Network (More about network) 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.

ECO 2023 30th European Congress on Obesity Poster

Minister Welcome’s 2022 Childhood Obesity Training Funding

The Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD and the Minister of State with responsibility for Public Health, Well Being and National Drugs Strategy, Frank Feighan TD have welcomed the extension of funding for the Sláintecare Integration Fund project – Childhood Obesity Training in Primary Care into 2022.

One in four children in Ireland are living with overweight or obesity and 1.8% of children have severe obesity. Children living with obesity have a higher risk of adult diseases such as stroke, cardiovascular disease and about 11 different cancers. They also are at risk of other childhood health complications and illnesses. At present, most health professionals do not receive any specific training on childhood obesity.

Facilitating Integration of Childhood Obesity Services in Primary Care through Education was piloted from funding provided through the Sláintecare Integration Fund.  Funding for the continuation of the project in 2022 is being provided by Healthy Ireland. The project aims to equip health professionals with knowledge, skills and confidence to help and support children who have obesity around the country.

The project is a collaboration between RCSI School of Physiotherapy, the Child and Adolescent Obesity Service in Children’s Health Ireland at Temple Street, UCD, GP representatives, the Irish Coalition of People with Obesity and the Association for the Study of Obesity on the Island of Ireland.

Minister Feighan said: “As Minister for Public Health and Well Being, I am keenly aware that disadvantaged children have double the risk of developing obesity. When families look for clinical support to help their children, it is imperative that our health service offers the right help, and that that help is respectful and sensitive.”

“I am delighted that the voices of children who currently have obesity, their families, as well as adults who had obesity as children, have been central to designing the modules that make up this training programme.”

“The theme for World Obesity Day 2022 is ‘Everybody Needs to Act’, and through this training, we are empowering health professionals to act sensitively but decisively to ensure better health outcomes for children in their adult lives.”

The collaborative project is led by Dr. Grace O’Malley of the RCSI Obesity Research and Care Group and Clinical Lead of the W82GO Child and Adolescent Obesity Service in CHI at Temple Street. Collaborating with health professionals including, Professor Clodagh O’Gorman, Foundation Chair & Professor of Paediatrics, University of Limerick the project team aims to build health professional engagement and experience, to enhance knowledge, to address perceived communication barriers and low confidence, and to establish a community of practice.

They had initially aimed to provide training for 75 health professionals through 2020. However, the planned deliverables were exceeded with over 1100 health professionals registered for training and over 750 hours of training completed to date.

Minister Donnelly said: “The innovation the team have brought to this project is uplifting to see, and the results speak for themselves with participants reporting that self-assessed knowledge of childhood obesity has increased 100%.”

“I am delighted to announce that my Department is providing funding for 2022 through Healthy Ireland and I look forward to seeing the outcomes of the next phase of this project as the team aims to move from building health professional knowledge to developing clinical and communication skills, and how to apply them.”

Watch the Sláintecare webinar “Enhancing capacity & skills for the management of chronic conditions” from 18th November 2022 available to watch here.

World Obesity Day 2022 Logo

Minister Donnelly further stated: “As children move through their lives to adulthood, they will encounter many healthcare professionals. Community healthcare is a very important part of this care for young people with Public Health Nurses, GPs, Community Dietitians, Community Physiotherapists all having an important role to play.

“The delivery of this free, high-quality training allows health professionals to develop their knowledge and aims to improve access to care for children and adolescents with obesity. By improving training, the project facilitates health professionals to provide children and families with a better patient experience including less stigmatising attitudes from health professionals.”