Family weight-management course

An innovative Weight Watchers programme that has helped overweight children in the United States is to have its UK pilot in Tiptree, Colchester.

Family weight-management course
to have its first UK pilot in Colchester

An innovative Weight Watchers programme that has helped overweight children in the United States is to have its UK pilot in Tiptree, Colchester.

The 10-week programme will begin on 16 January and will be a partnership between Weight Watchers, North East Essex Primary Care Trust (PCT) and Milldene Primary School, Tiptree.

The “Weight Watchers Family” course will involve 10 one-hour sessions between 6.30pm and 7.30pm at the school on successive Tuesday evenings, with the exception of half-term (13 February).

It is targeted at families, but children – overweight children and their siblings, whether overweight or not – will take part only in the second and seventh sessions. Families taking part will be invited to pay a weekly donation of £1 for refreshments.

The course will be led by Karen West from Weight Watchers UK who has been to the United States, where pilots have already taken place, to learn how to run Weight Watchers Family.

She said Weight Watchers and the PCT believed that family members working together hold the key to combating the issue of overweight children. Weight Watchers Family is aimed at families with at least one overweight child up to the age of 16.

Ms West said the primary focus of the pilot would be to create a healthy-weight home rather than measurable weight loss. The aims of the community-based programme would be to ensure a child’s normal growth and development while maintaining weight or halting weight gain, and allowing children to “grow into” their weight.

“Parents are a tremendous influence on their children’s attitudes and behaviours regarding food and health – they send silent cues about not only what foods to eat but also about how often and how much to eat,” she said.

“The course will give parents ideas on healthy shopping practices, eating out and planning healthy family-focused physical activities. They will then be asked to apply the lifestyle lessons they have learned to the everyday lives of their families.”

Julie Powell, senior health improvement adviser at North East Essex PCT, said: “The PCT believes that offering an active intervention to families in order that parents and the community can work together to positively address the issue of children being overweight is a major step forward.

“The focus of the programme is to develop healthy habits for the whole family rather than targeting a specific child or children with weight issues.

“The programme is delivered to the parents and focuses on them being the change agents for the whole family, empowering them to instigate and sustain lifestyle changes which lead to the whole family becoming a healthier unit.”

Mrs Karen Springett, headteacher at Milldene Primary School, said: “This school is thrilled to be supporting the pilot because we are committed to making this a healthy school and working with the local community.”

The school already encourages children to bring only healthy tuck to school, has healthy school dinners and promotes healthy eating and physical activity in the school curriculum, she added.

If parents taking part in the course cannot find a childminder, Thurstable Sports College, Tiptree, will be running a club for them (overweight children and other siblings) at Milldene Primary School where, under supervision, they will be able to take part in physical activities or use the school library. Between 10 and 20 families will be able to take part in the course.

No decision will be taken about future Weight Watchers Family programme until the Tiptree pilot has been fully evaluated.

Working with Colchester Leisure World, North East Essex PCT has also just established a Young Person’s Referral Scheme for overweight children from the age of eight upwards.

* An information evening about the Weight Watchers Family course for interested parents will be held at the school on Tuesday 9 January, 6.30pm-7.30pm. Space is limited so people wishing to attend must reserve a place by phoning Julie Powell on 01206 574256. Mrs Powell should also be contacted by people who are interested in the course but who are unable to attend on 9 January. In addition, she is also a contact for the Young Person’s Referral Scheme.

- ends -

For further information:

Contact Mark Prentice or Patrick Lowman of Geronimo Communications on 01284 768935.


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