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Sheffield Children’s welcomes evaluation of specialist clinics

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25 January 2024

Researchers at Sheffield Hallam University have been awarded more than £1.5m to lead an evaluation of NHS clinics across England set up to support children and young people who have weight-related complications.

Dr Dita Aswani, Consultant Paediatrician specialising in Diabetes and Weight Management at Sheffield Children’s, said: “The Sheffield complications with excess weight (CEW) team are working hard to ensure that childhood obesity is approached in a holistic and compassionate manner, with recognition of obesity being not only complex and multifactoral, but a chronic relapsing and remitting condition requiring individualised and intensive support.

“Our colleagues in other CEW centres across the UK have a similar ethos and we have been exchanging experiences of good practice all along to continuously improve and shape our services. Each centre, however, has a unique workforce make up, service design, and approach, with some wonderful and varied examples of innovation emerging.

“It is therefore fantastic news that this NIHR grant has been awarded to our research partners at Sheffield Hallam University and team of academics from other institutions, to carry out this vital evaluation of the impact of all services. We look forward to working with them, our patient and family representatives, and other CEW clinic colleagues to develop a deeper understanding of what is best practice in this field.”

The project, a collaboration with partners at Leeds Beckett University, the Universities of Leeds and Bristol, and Sheffield Children’s Hospital, will look at the effectiveness of 21 Complications of Excess Weight clinics across England.

The clinics support children and young people with issues including type two diabetes, breathing difficulties while sleeping, low self-esteem and emotional wellbeing.

Funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research, the research will look at best practice in the clinics, through speaking to those delivering the service, and outline ways they can be improved for patients.

The team will speak to young people and families from different backgrounds who attend the clinics to find out about their experiences and whether the services offered by the clinics helped to improve their lives.

The project will be led by Dr Catherine Homer, Associate Professor of Obesity and Public Health at Sheffield Hallam University, with support of experts in young people’s health and weight management.

Dr Homer said: “We know that for many children, young people and their families, living with obesity has really shocking impacts on their health, wellbeing and daily lives. The CEW clinics are using holistic individualised approaches supported by multidisciplinary teams across England to work with children and young people to treat the complications they experience.

“By working with our academic and clinical team we hope to develop and share understanding of what is working and not within the clinics and the optimal levels of care for complications relating to obesity in childhood.”

Louisa Ells, Professor of Obesity and Co-director of the Obesity Institute at Leeds Beckett University is the co-lead on the project.

Prof Ells added: “Given the serious social, physical and psychological impacts of living with obesity during childhood and adolescence, person-centred compassionate support is paramont. It is therefore a great honour and priviledge to be co-leading this important study with our partners at Sheffield Hallam, building on our long standing collaboration and partnership in the evaluation of the NHS low calorie diet programme.

The funding is the second six-figure award secured by Sheffield Hallam researchers to carry out projects into health and weight management in children and young people in recent months, putting the University at the forefront of research in this field.

Last month it was announced Dr Alice Bullas had secured a £1.6m UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship to develop new body measurement methods for children living with obesity.

The research will be carried out from the University’s £14m Advanced Wellbeing Research  Centre (AWRC) – where over two hundred researchers from across the University co-locate in fields such as health, sport, design, engineering, computing and social sciences. 

The AWRC is based on the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park where Sheffield Hallam recently announced ambitious plans for a new Health Innovation Campus.

The Health Innovation Campus will unlock new external inward investment and create the most advanced cluster for health, wellbeing and sustainability in the world, building capacity in skills, research, innovation, business support and community engagement.  

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