Greater understanding needed in order to predict weight management programme success
Researchers examined data from nearly 3,000 children attending a programme delivered by MoreLife, a national, government-funded, weight management provider, between 2009 and 2014.
The research, published this week in the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity, reveals that the characteristics of those attending a weight management programme are not effective in predicting the participants’ engagement, and whether or not they might complete the programme.
The study, undertaken by researchers in the Institute of Sport, Physical Activity and Leisure at Leeds Beckett, showed that the design and format of the weight management programmes are stronger predictors of engagement than the participants’ characteristics, such as gender, age, ethnicity, body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference. They also found that those completing the MoreLife programmes achieved a reduction in their BMI during the programme which was greater than those that only sporadically attended the programmes.
The research study led by James Nobles, alongside Dr Claire Griffiths, Dr Andy Pringle and Professor Paul Gately, found that programme characteristics were stronger predictors of engagement: in particular group sizes of less than 20 participants and having programmes delivered in autumn and winter.
Speaking about the findings of the research, James Nobles, Whole Systems Obesity Research Fellow at Leeds Beckett, said: “We know that around half of children that attend weight management programmes do not go on to complete them. These high attrition rates compromise both the effectiveness of the programmes and their cost efficiency. Higher participant attendance is associated with greater weight loss and health-related benefits in contrast to those with lower attendance or those who drop out.
“In this study we were able to analyse the engagement of families using the data of a large-scale weight management programme delivered over a number of years. Previous studies have suggested that analysis of participants’ characteristics before attending a programme can predict engagement; however our findings challenge this. Instead, we would like to see other factors – such as social support, motivation, and programme expectation – being investigated, which may better predict programme engagement. It is of utmost importance that we understand why families engage in weight management, and what we – as researchers and practitioners – can do to lessen the burden of high programme attrition. We also investigated the programme characteristics associated with engagement, and these data would point towards programmes having no more than 20 participants per group. In doing so, the individual needs of the families can be better satisfied”.
Paul Gately, Professor of Exercise and Obesity at Leeds Beckett and founder of MoreLife, added: “Despite around one-third of children in the UK being overweight or obese, weight management programmes are only thought to serve between 0.5% and 1.5% of the childhood population with a weight issue. We know that many of these children will continue to have obesity as an adult and that obesity is strongly associated with a range of negative health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, sleep apnoea, cancers and polycystic ovaries.
“The funding per participant on our MoreLife programmes has decreased by 37.5% in recent years, however the efficacy of the programme is expected to remain intact. Therefore the need for effective weight management programmes - which encourage strong participant engagement and demonstrate positive health-related improvement - is critical.”
MoreLife deliver weight management and health improvement programmes to individuals, families, local communities and within workplaces. It was founded in 1993 as Carnegie Weight Management by Professor Paul Gately.
To view the full research paper, Design programmes to maximise participant engagement: a predictive study of programme and participant characteristics associated with engagement in paediatric weight management, visit https://ijbnpa.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12966-016-0399-1