The University of Liverpool is leading a network of research, healthcare and community organisations working together to tackle obesity in the region.
Already a major public health concern, obesity rates have increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which in turn increases the risk of serious ill health and morbidity related to the infection.
The Liverpool Obesity Research Network (LORN) is working to address these concerns on a regional level through a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach.
Current LORN members include Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, LFC Foundation, Liverpool Health Partners, Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust, Liverpool John Moores University and a range of community organisations. A number of projects are already underway.
University of Liverpool researchers are working on the REJOIN project, where they are developing a person-centred intervention that can support people living with obesity in light of a number of identified barriers to healthy eating and physical activity during social and environmental disruption. This has been informed by a study from the same researchers into obesity, eating behaviour and physical activity in UK adults during the initial COVID-19 UK lockdown, which found that social lockdown may have had a disproportionately large influence on weight-related behaviours among adults with higher body mass index. The study identified a need to understand the impact that the COVID-19 crisis may have on population-level weight gain and to develop tools to support weight management at times when usual support systems may not be available or accessible.
LFC Foundation and Alder Hey Children’s Hospital are working to expand their MOVE weight management programme. MOVE is co-created by LFC Foundation and Alder Hey’s endocrinology team to support young people with complex health conditions and their families, and give them a better understanding of health-related topics. It aims to tackle obesity by running community based sessions, which include the whole family and provide specific nutritional support to individuals. The new developments, funded by the Premier League Professional Footballers Association and Alder Hey, include an exercise referral programme to young people with respiratory conditions and a pilot of new weight management programme with young people with overweight and obesity.
The University of Liverpool’s Dr Emma Boyland said: “LORN is at the heart of a range of multidisciplinary obesity research projects with regional, national and international impact. Now more than ever we need to work together with partner organisations and groups to stimulate new research activity in Liverpool and the North West – practical solutions are urgently needed to help people achieve and maintain a healthy weight, undertake proper treatment, and reverse the obesity crisis.”
Alder Hey Children’s Hospital’s Dr Senthil Senniappan said: “People living in deprived areas are more than twice as likely to have obesity. This complex and multidimensional issue has, among other things, biological, genetic, psychological and social determinants. Our policies should be robust enough to create a healthy environment prioritising obesity as a health issue to build the right support systems. We need to involve politicians, local authorities, universities, health providers and patient representatives.”
Professor John Wilding, who leads clinical research into obesity, diabetes and endocrinology at the University of Liverpool, has taken part in special episode of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) Medicine podcast for World Obesity Day. He joins RCP’s Dr Seun Anyiam to discuss all things obesity, including how to tackle the increasing prevalence of obesity in society and the increased risk of worse outcomes in COVID-19. They also tackle the important issue of obesity stigma, and how the existence of this among healthcare professionals can lead to inequality in the treatment of people living with obesity. You can listen to the podcast here.