SHINE’s most recent psychosocial programme has just finished and it was incredibly challenging. Presenting problems weren’t food-related this term, but stressors of the daily life young people faced; leaving school in Y6 and Y11 with little transition preparation, finding an identity in new environments, losing old friendships and establishing new ones, family conflicts, illnesses, bereavements, and fear of social contacts, all contributed to our participants’ patterns of eating.
Weight losses were minimal (although weight gains were too) and a combination of weariness with lockdown and government restrictions meant we had to come up with new approaches to ensure positive outcomes for the children and young people in our groups. So here’s three ways coronavirus is disrupting weight management programmes – and three ways to fight back…
Three Ways Covid-19 is Disrupting Weight Management Programmes…
1. Constant Change – Part of SHINE’s success has been built on presenting participants on our programme with a structure they can believe in. But it’s hard to build that structure on the shifting sands of 14-day self isolation periods, tiers, lockdowns, bubbles, guidance, instructions and advice.
2. Sport Facilities Shut Down – There’s a buzz to our gym and swimming groups at Springs Leisure Centre and we’re pretty sure missing out on those activities since coronavirus has negatively affected not just our weight loss results but our groups’ wellbeing.
3. Anxiety – For the first time in 17 years, levels of anxiety and depression in our group were higher at the end of the module than at the beginning. Coronavirus has brought illness, bereavements and disrupted education – and taken away social contact with friends and family. SHINE have had to ringfence the emotional wellbeing of our children and young people before even considering weight loss.
…And Three Ways to Fight Back
1. Embrace innovation – It’s always easier to walk down a well-worn track but moving in a new direction can be exciting and fun as we have learnt. For example, developing zoom friendly interactive workbooks gave us a connection where young people could work after their class with their family following simple instructions in there. Staff resilience and endless hours of reshaping how we deliver our interventions has really paid off thanks to a dedicated team of volunteers and workers creating flexible and adapted resources.
2. Go Public – Keeping strictly to government and NHS instructions, we developed ‘bubble sport’ events in the full gaze of Norfolk Park – with outdoor walks, dance, circuits and aerobics. Making the switch from behind closed doors to out and proud in public spaces was a leap in the dark, but the response from the public was inspirational! We even had people joining in – at a distance of course…
3. Be Person Centred – From SHINE’s Young People’s Committee to our multi-family discussion groups, finding out what works best for our young people, keeping them involved and providing support that is really meaningful to them really matters. And it’s succeeding. Our most recent programme run – a 12-week course starting September and finishing earlier this month – had 100% retention. SHINE’s Kath Sharman will be presenting more on this at the Webinar conference run by the Care of Childhood Obesity (CoCO) clinic at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children. Click here to find out more.