Interesting that Portsmouth City Council have decided to commission MEND (again) to combat childhood obesity
Last year I was charged with investigating the success of children’s weight management programmes in Portsmouth. Most programmes, MEND included, had not been well attended. There are many barriers that must be addressed to improve attendance at such programmes. In addition, the long-term effect of such programmes are unknown – that is, there is no evidence that they help children and families to develop healthier lifestyles in the long term.
Previously, MEND 5-7 was delivered by school nurses and just 21 children completed the course in 18 months. The school nurses reported that MEND offered little information for ethnic groups, provided too much written information for parents to read, was aimed at well-educated, literate adults, and provided no on-going support (following completion of programme). MEND 7-13 was delivered at by a local leisure centre by their staff. Just 60 families completed the programme in almost 3 years (about 55% of capacity). An investigation found that there was no incentive for the MEND delivery team to recruit to full capacity, reduce attrition rates or report/feedback on the programmes to commissioners.
Portsmouth’s public health team must offer help for families who want to develop healthier lifestyles, but the MEND programme has a limited capacity and with thousands of overweight and obese children in Portsmouth it will meet about 1% of the need in Portsmouth. Across the UK the MEND programme has helped some families in the short-term, but Portsmouth needs more than MEND to help children and families develop a healthier lifestyle.