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Photo of Charlotte Albury © Nasir Hamid

Kate Farrington interviews SPCR doctoral student Charlotte Albury, who is a contributing author on Public Health England's step-by-step guide to conversations about weight management with children and families for health and care professionals. Reposted with permission from the NIHR SPCR website.

This resource relates to families of 4-12 year old children and young people and provides you with the information and tools you need to:

  • identify children and young people above a healthy weight
  • sensitively discuss weight with families
  • signpost families to support to make positive lifestyle changes
  • refer families to tier 2 and tier 3 weight management services

How does your research relate to child weight management?

My research explores conversations about weight management in primary care where patients are offered a free referral to commercial weight management services. My work looks at how to have often sensitive conversations about weight management in a ways which are helpful, useful and which facilitate action.

The area of child weight management has a smaller evidence base, so I contributed areas of my work which could be transferrable to child weight management where parents are offered a free referral for their family.  This included first hand research combined with my systematic literature review of  health behaviour change talk across medical settings which enabled me to identify common strategies aimed at facilitating helpful and useful conversations about changing health behaviours.

How did your choice of conversation analysis enable the research findings?

Conversation analysis pays detailed attention to the exact words or phrases that are used in a conversation, and how people respond to them. I then associated conversational data with what patients did next, to find relationships between conversations and patient action. This enabled me to find ways of talking about weight which were well received and led to patient attendance at weight watchers or slimming world.

How did you initially get involved in working with PHE?

We initially discussed my work on adult weight management, and  gave brief advice to PHE for their adult weight management guide. Due to this existing relationship they knew about my systematic review of health behaviour change talk, and asked for input on their weight management guide for children and families.

What impact do you expect the guidance will have?

I hope this guidance will impact doctors, in that it will support them to have helpful conversations with their patients in an appropriate way. Overall, I hope it will impact patients, as their doctors will be able to confidently and appropriately offer free referrals and they can engage in conversations which could have a real health benefit.

What has emerged from this research as an important area to look at in the future?

Listening to audio recordings of primary care consultations, and conducting conversation analysis highlights overwhelmingly some excellent ways that doctors and patients can communicate. This research gives the opportunity to uncover these strategies and make them available for other doctors to use. There are many other conversations in primary care than can be difficult or sensitive and I think finding out ways to facilitate these is important for both doctors and patients moving forwards.

If you'd like to find out more, read the guidelines.

Opinions expressed are those of the author/s and not of the University of Oxford. Readers' comments will be moderated - see our guidelines for further information.


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