Ministers welcome 2022 funding for Health Professional Training on Childhood Obesity on European and World Obesity Day 2022
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 here.
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.”
The LANDSCAPE study team want to hear from healthcare professionals and managers in Ireland who see children and adolescents in their daily practice
The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences) in collaboration with the Health Service Executive (HSE), are recruiting health professionals and managers from all disciplines, who work in Ireland, to complete an online survey and/or take part in an online focus group on current childhood obesity treatment services in Ireland.
Aims and further details
The aim of this work is to map currently available services and practices in relation to caring for children with obesity and their complications. It is envisaged that this will help develop an understanding of how these services and practices may differ across the country and in various settings in Ireland. It may also provide valuable insight on the potential barriers and enablers for the provision of obesity treatment services in Ireland and identifying the supports needed.
The online survey takes approximately 15-25 minutes to complete, depending on the level to which the health professional or healthcare manager cares for children and adolescents with obesity in their daily practice, either for weight management specifically or for treatment of other conditions. Survey participants will also have the opportunity to add any information that they feel is important and the opportunity to express an interest in participating in a focus group which is also part of this project. Please see further details on the LANDSCAPE focus groups via the participant information sheet available here.
Please access the survey here
For the next part of this study, we will later be undertaking focus groups with healthcare professionals also. You can register your interest for the online focus groups here. These are open to all health professionals and managers, including those who complete the survey or not.
All views and participation will be greatly appreciated. Participants can choose to take part in both the survey and focus group or just one of these options.
This work and its analysis will be completely anonymous.
Obesity in children
Nearly 20% of children in Ireland are living with overweight or obesity1 with 7% estimated to have obesity2 and 1.5% estimated to have severe obesity3. When children develop obesity they can have difficulties with their physical and mental health including: high blood pressure; painful joints; breathing difficulties; anxiety and early development of other diseases.
International health research4 and clinical guidelines5 recommend that children with obesity are offered treatment early in their life in an effort to reduce health complications and the risk of future disease. Evidence based treatment should be available to children in their community and in children’s hospitals depending on the severity of their obesity.
In Ireland we do not know whether children with obesity can get treatment and if they can, where treatment is offered, what it involves and how children and their parents feel about the treatment they receive. We also do not know what health professionals believe is important for their local context in order to offer quality treatment for childhood obesity.
Previous related work
In 2020 the Obesity Research and Care Group at RCSI conducted the Sláintecare needs assessment survey among healthcare professionals in Ireland which related to the provision of health professional training and education for childhood obesity. The Childhood Obesity LANDSCAPE Project follows on from that work with the aim of furthering knowledge on factors that can facilitate or hamper the provision and access to treatment services for children and adolescents with obesity. Completing this survey and taking part in this focus group will enable our research group to delve deeper into the experiences and insights of health professionals and healthcare managers so that services can be improved in an informed and collaborative manner.
The Childhood Obesity LANDSCAPE Project has been funded by the Health Research Board of Ireland’s Applied Partnership Award and the Health Service Executive. Dr Grace O’Malley, RCSI is the principal investigator, and Sarah O’Brien, HSE is the lead knowledge user.
For further information in relation to this survey, please see the Survey Participant Information Sheet available here
For further information in relation to this focus group, please complete the Focus Group Expression of Interest Form available here and the Focus Group Participant Information Sheet available here. If you leave your contact information and consent to being invited, you will be provided with more information about this part of the project in due course.
1Mitchell L, Bel-Serrat S, Stanley I, Hegarty T, McCann L, Mehegan J, Murrin C, Heinen M, Kelleher C. (2020). The Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (COSI) in the Republic of Ireland – Findings from 2018 and 2019.
2Layte R, McCrory C. Growing Up in Ireland – National Longitudinal Study of Children: Overweight and Obesity Among 9-Year-Olds. Dublin, Stationery Office; November 2011.
3Bel Serrat S, Heinen MM, O’Malley G, Mehegan J, Murrin C, Kelleher CK. Trends in the prevalence of childhood obesity and morbid obesity in the Republic of Ireland – The Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative in 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2015. Obesity Facts 2018;11(Suppl 1):43. DOI:10.1159/000497797.
4Ells, L.J., Rees, K., Brown, T. et al. Interventions for treating children and adolescents with overweight and obesity: an overview of Cochrane reviews. Int J Obes 2018;42, 1823–1833. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41366-018-0230-y.
5National Clinical Guideline Centre (UK). Obesity: Identification, Assessment and Management of Overweight and Obesity in Children, Young People and Adults. NICE clinical guidance 189. London: National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (UK); November 2014.