A weighty issue

We believe that there is a great value in preventing a problem occurring and that people will live better lives if resources are directed to taking early action. In 2017 we are therefore planning to focus resources on supporting system change which could enable partners join up to support early action or preventative approaches.

Working towards this we have been finding out more about organisations that take a preventative approach.  As part of this learning we have been focusing on three themes. In our December blog we explored the issue of women and criminal justice and this post focuses on our second theme: promoting healthy weight.

By ‘promoting healthy weight’ we include approaches which value promoting health at any and every size. Overweight and obesity risk becoming a public health challenge in Scotland. We know that sustainable, community-wide approaches to promoting healthy weight, ‘health gain,’ and healthy lives generally involves a set of integrated services, from acute services, to more upstream community based targeted, and universal ‘preventative’ initiatives.  These services and actions are delivered by the many organisations, community services, and networks that make up a local ‘system’.

We have been talking to a range of organisations involved with preventing obesity, promoting healthy weight and promoting healthy lives. We have asked about the range of approaches, the opportunities and challenges, and how to successfully enable system change and shift in spend from acute services to more community led preventative activities.

We’d now like to look at what we can do to help organisations come together strategically at a local level, to change and add value to, or gather evidence and evaluate, the way services work. We have learned, for example, that there may be a need for effective and more systematic evaluation of the impact of more ‘upstream approaches’ on acute services.

We believe there is an opportunity to help people working across sectors re-focus efforts and resources on more preventative approaches, through collaboration with local communities.

If you would like to share your experiences in this area please do get in touch by commenting below.

We will be telling you more about the third and final theme we are exploring, young people and families, in the coming weeks.


  1. Active Communities deliver physical activity, community sport and health and wellbeing classes and programmes in Renfrewshire. We encourage and support everyone regardless of age or ability. Our youngest member is 2 months and oldest 91!
    We believe that increasing emphasis should be placed on preventing ill health and not solely treating illness. We are committed to a community led approach, listening to community needs and working with local people to improve their health and well being.
    We pride ourselves in recruiting, training and supporting local people to deliver our programmes. helping them to improve their health and well being and that of their community and aiming for sustainability in all that we do.
    We have delivered community weight management programmes in Renfrewshire – New Mums New You, ACES and MEND 2-4. We have found that our classes are successful as we deliver in the local community and are not seen as by local peoples as as “threatening” as statutory partners. We have been training local people as Community Health Champions and young people as peer educators. This approach of delivering to peers, family and friends is being well received and showing behaviour change within the local community. We see a real need for a more joined up approach by all partners to avoid duplication and wasting resources. We would be happy to share our evaluation and examples of our work

  2. Mytime Active were awarded Big Lottery Funding in August 2013 to engage, inspire and empower families to overcome barriers to leading active and healthy lives, through the Healthy Powerful Communities Project. This locally delivered project has utilised community assets to positively contribute to individuals and families achieving and maintaining a healthy weigh.

    Mytime Active are proud to work in partnership with East Ayrshire Council, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Scottish Sport Futures and NHS Tayside to empower Scottish families to become fitter, healthier and happier, through the delivery of the MEND programme.

    MEND (Mind, Exercise, Nutrition… Do it!) was developed in 2001 and is the largest, most well evaluated, community-based, child weight management programme. It has been delivered to over 100,000 children and their carers, in 6 countries internationally.

    Healthy Powerful Communities is about so much more than tackling obesity – as important as that is; the programme is a brilliant example of asset based health and community development – that puts participants at the heart of the solution.

    MEND Graduate sessions continue to support participants and families beyond the ten week programme. Graduates sessions promote and encourage children and families to lead a healthy active lifestyle. To raise the profile of health and wellbeing through the promotion of practical, fun learning with an emphasis on encouraging participation of children and their families to make sustained improvements in their families, diet, physical activity levels and overall health.

    Working in collaboration with community partners has ensured that local families have access to a MEND session allowing them to make positive choices about their own families health and wellbeing.

    Comments below from MEND families across Scotland

    “After attending the MEND 2-4 programme, Lexi’s confidence grew greatly. At the start she wouldn’t leave my side & after a few sessions she was keen to join in with all the other kids. I can’t thank the MEND team”. New Cumnock Mum – Louise

    Jill really wanted to do something when she realised that her weight wasn’t baby weight anymore! The Best Bit: ‘Meeting new mums that are in the same boat as you. The group has been a tremendous help with advice and support with different situations. Also someone watches the babies while we worked out for 30mins was a godsend.’
    Biggest achievement: ‘The exercise and diet guidance really helped at a time when I was not eating properly at all. It made me make time for myself to prepare meals and do a little exercise here and there and not make it a chore. Having a new born is stressful enough but the girls showed us ways to incorporate both into our daily routine which made a big difference. I have now changed my eating habits completely and my weight/BMI have definitely improved as a result.’ Jill has lost 2 stone. Renfrewshire mum attending New Mum New You session at Active Communities.

    “The inclusive approach of the MEND 2-4 years programme was a great way of bringing together the community. As an Early Years foods and reading food labels. MEND Mum Kathy – Perth.

    Going to MEND gave me the confidence to try out for football team at school and I now go along to a community football group each week in the local park. Michael, age 12 – Dundee

    Hasan started MEND 7-13 with his 2 brothers Ali and Adam. He was incredibly shy to start with and found coming along quite stressful. He started to relax and trust us a bit more about half way through the programme and also attended the Easter holiday programmes where he grew in confidence so much speaking to the coaches about where he had been on holiday. BEST BITS: Hearing from his school that his confidence had risen, he makes healthier choices at lunch and he is engaging with classmates more.
    BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: Coming along each week and joining in was a great leap for him. Attending multiple MEND graduate events taking asked if we could all go to the park after. UPDATE: He has since lost 6kg and is cycling frequently.

    MEND for me was a life changer. At the start of MEND I did not want to take part in any of the activities but as I progressed I interacted more within the group. We worked out that before MEND I was over 72 hours a week on Xbox and computer games. Looking at that now is like wow how did I have the time for that. BEST BIT: Taking part in the activities and making friends. BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: Building my confidence to go onto volunteering, becoming a MEND leader and securing place at college. Chris MEND Teen participant East Ayrshire

    Just wanted to pass on a huge thank you from me and Christopher for the past ten weeks at MEND. The experience has been completely life changing for us. MEND has helped Christopher in so many ways, and as a result has also helped me in many ways. Before MEND, I couldn’t find anywhere that Chris felt comfortable socialising. As a result he was slowly becoming more and more withdrawn. He wanted to stay at home all the time and be in his room. Although he felt unable to socialise he still felt lonely and repeatedly told me that he was ‘lonely for other children’. He was gaining weight and becoming more and more lethargic. In the past I have tried cubs, karate, judo, swimming clubs, Active8, mainstream football and supported learning football, none of which he could manage. Trying to take him to these clubs always resulted in fear, anxiety and eventually tears. From week 1 in MEND Christopher was happy to go to the gym without me (this is a complete first) and loved the games that were played. I can’t praise the MEND team enough for their ability to welcome the kids and make them feel instantly safe, while getting them active. In Chris’s own words ‘everyone at MEND is so much nicer than the people at school’. From a nutrition point of view, we have a long road in front of us due to his fear of new foods. However, thanks to MEND Chris has now started to talk about this fear and explain to me about different tastes and textures and what he can and can’t cope with. We can definitely start to work with this. Food is no longer the taboo subject it was before MEND, and I am looking forward to slowly experimenting with Chris on lots of new foods. The most amazing thing is that Chris is totally up for this.
    He has completely grasped the 5/5 concept of fats and sugars. It was amazing to watch a boy that usually wouldn’t let go of me in a supermarket, running the length of Asda by himself to get his results in first to the cafe! Seeing that he has lost inches and weight and has a healthier heart rate already, is just magical.
    From a personal point of view, I thought I had a fair knowledge of food and health, however, MEND has given me lots of new ideas and thoughts on how I can improve both our diets and has also made it something that’s easy to talk about with Christopher. In short, I have watched a terrified, lonely boy, turn into a boy with confidence who feels safe to come into a busy room and chat with people he had never met, and all of this within ten weeks! The dedication of the MEND team is something I will never forget, and we both look forward to continuing on the programme for as long as you will have us! I really can’t thank yourself and everyone at MEND enough Jim, the work you all do is tremendous. MEND mum Tracy – Christopher attended a MEND session delivered in Barlanark by Scottish Sport Futures.

    “Committing roughly 2hrs for 15weeks was a huge step and I was really contemplating backing out. I guess curiosity and a determination to see my son ‘slimmer’ got the better part of me and so we committed; two young boys and myself. Having made the decision to participate we were not sure of what to expect, we had lots of apprehension and many ‘what if’s” What if they thought we were too fat? What if we don’t lose weight? What if… Now we look back and we are happy we attended, the facilitators were wonderful and non/judgemental. The sessions were practical and very interactive and hey! The goal wasn’t to lose weight anymore but to change our lifestyle by changing our perception, leading an active life, being conscious of what we ate and doing all these as a big family!
    The kids had so much fun and we didn’t even realise it was graduation time. I will definitely recommend. MEND Mum Thelma – child attended MEND 7-13 programme at the Royal Hospital for Children, Glasgow.

    I particularly liked the visual of the different sugar amounts in little containers I’ve been telling everyone how shocking it was, this is a good class, really enjoying it – Thanks, , this has been a great group to mix and play, enjoyed learning more hints and tips on being healthy, great club – my wee girl loves it- Staff are great, all staff are very friendly and all children seem to enjoy playing and talking to them, really enjoying the course so far – my child will be very sad when it ends. West Dunbartonshire MEND 2-4 parent

    Comments from community partners

    “The inclusive approach of the MEND 2-4 years programme was a great way of bringing together the community. As a centre we were able to extend an invitation to our local mother and toddler, promoting partnership and transition”
    Libby Rankin – Early Years Practitioner, East Ayrshire Council

    “The approach between Health Visitors, Glasgow Life, Nursery, wider NHS services and local Voluntary Organisations was a successful way of providing inclusive support to an isolated family” MEND Project Worker – Kirsty McGill, Glasgow Life.

    Melinda attended MEND with her mum following a referral from her health visitor. The health visitor thought MEND would be a terrific resource to enable mum and daughter to have one-to-one time and to introduce healthy food choices in a fun learning setting to combat fussy eating. Melinda’s confidence in the group setting grew each week and she responded favourably to the MEND approach of consistency and modelling. Each passing week she was braver in her willingness to try new foods and activities. Mum was delighted with her engagement and enjoyed meeting new parents and having the opportunity to participate in the parents group. Mum has another child was an additional support need and further benefited from her experience in MEND as she was able to be signposted to other services within and out with 3D Drumchapel and the MEND programme to further support the family. The health visitor was encouraged to hear of the progress and commitment of the family in completing the programme and this will support future referrals onto the programme enabling more families to participate and learn new tools and tips to increasing their families’ health and well being.3D Drumchapel MEND delivery team.

    We saw a big difference with the children from week 1 to week 10, playing more,
    taking part in activities and what food they were trying at snack time. One particular
    child who didn’t want to leave his mother’s side to start with was playing with the
    other children by the end of the course and wasn’t getting upset when his mother
    went to the parent workshop. North West Glasgow delivery team

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