Success of obesity interventions in people with learning disabilities needs primary carer involvement


Obesity is a major health concern in adults with learning disabilities. This study set out to evaluate the impact of a locally delivered NHS health promotion programme.

191 adults with learning disabilities took part in the evaluation and were screened and monitored over a 2-year period with attendance rates and body mass index (BMI) used a outcome measures.

The researchers found 69% were overweight/obese/morbidly obese at the beginning of the programme. 21% of the sample failed to attend at year 1 and 34% failed to attend at year 2.

Measurements of BMI showed 52% of the ‘at risk’ BMI category remaining static, 26.7% had a worsening weight status and 20.7% showed improvements in weight status.

The authors discuss both the possibilities and also the main difficulties in working on a health promotion model within the NHS. They suggest specifically that long-term obesity-specific interventions need to incorporate primary carers if they are to be successful in the future.

Longitudinal Follow-up of Weight Change in the Context of a Community-Based Health Promotion Programme for Adults with an Intellectual Disability, Thomas, G & Kerr, M, in Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 24: 381–387

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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