Birmingham health Eating & Active lifestyle for children Study (BEACHeS)
A team of researchers at the University of Birmingham secured funding through a national medical research initiative: The National Prevention Research Initiative (NPRI) for a project about health that was being undertaken in primary schools in the Birmingham area.
The aim was to look at preventing obesity in children, through promoting a healthy diet and increasing the levels of physical activity. The overall aim was to develop practical ways of altering children’s behaviour so that they are less likely to become obese, starting from age 5 to 7.
Dr Peymané Adab, Senior Lecturer
Dr Miranda J Pallan, Research Fellow
Dr Victoria Brookes, Research Fellow
Miriam Banting, Research Associate
Sheila Hirst, Administrator
Find out more about the Project...
We used local knowledge gained from key people associated with primary schools and local communities to develop a set of measures (or interventions) to prevent obesity.
We subsequently piloted the interventions in schools and communities to assess feasibility and to provide valuable information for a full trial of the developed interventions.
We undertook this project with a particular focus on children of South Asian origin, as this population suffer more from obesity-associated diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Therefore we aimed to make any prevention measures particularly relevant to these children.
We also needed to ensure we had appropriate and feasible methods for measuring the effects (good and bad) of the intervention we developed. This includeed ways of measuring obesity, diet, physical activity, quality of life and self-image. We therefore planned to try out a number of methods to obtain these measurements on a sample of children aged 5 to 7. There are currently no validated measures of diet in South Asian children of this age; we therefore also developed and validated such a measure.
Find out more about what it meant for parents, the children taking part, the schools and the community
A summary of the findings, outlining and summarising the activities discussed by the focus groups is now available
Obesity is a growing threat to health worldwide. It has been shown to increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers, as well as causing several other health problems. It is estimated that obesity shortens life by 9 years on average.
In the UK the number of people who would be classified as overweight and obese has increased rapidly in the last couple of decades. Estimates vary, but between one third to a half of the adult population are overweight and one fifth obese. People of South Asian origin are particularly at risk from illnesses associated with obesity, especially heart disease and diabetes. Obesity in children is also more common in certain South Asian groups.
About half of obese children will become obese adults and overweight and obese children are likely to experience poor health related quality of life and low self esteem. Furthermore, we know that treating obesity is quite difficult, and even when successful, tends to be short lived. Prevention is therefore critical, and research suggests that prevention should start at an early age. The age of 5 to 7 is a particularly vulnerable period when problems with obesity may develop.
Unfortunately we have limited evidence of successful measures for preventing obesity in children, and existing research has not always been successful. It is recognised that there is a need for further research in this area and that local knowledge must be incorporated in developing any prevention measures. There are no previous studies that focus specifically on obesity prevention in South Asian children.
Brookes, V. Birmingham healthy Eating & Active lifestyle for Children Study. Health Education Journal. Autumn 2007. p52.
Hiam L, Pallan M, Adab P. Obesity and body dissatisfaction: is there an association? Poster presentation at the Annual Conference of the Faculty of Public Health, 2007.
Pallan M. Birmingham healthy eating and active lifestyle for children study. Oral presentation at the Annual Conference of the Faculty of Public Health, 2007.
Teale A, Pallan M, Adab P. Childhood obesity monitoring and prevention research. Chapter in 2006/7 Key Health Data [in press]
The final measurements have been completed in all of the schools and we are extremely grateful to all of those who helped us. We have produced a summary report of the evaluation findings.
We are extremely grateful to the following for their assistance and support with the project:
Waterstone's Booksellers on the University of Birmingham Campus who have kindly donated book tokens as a thank you present to the children for taking part.
Tesco's Supermarket in Edgbaston for their donation of gift vouchers which were used as prizes for parents who took the time to complete the questionnaires.
School Stickers who provided us with the colourful fun stickers to give to the children taking part.
Sainsbury's in Selly Oak who supplied us with gift vouchers which were used as prizes for parents who took the time to complete the questionnaires.