Preventing obesity at weaning: parental views about the EMPOWER programme.
Barlow J., Whitlock S., Hanson S., Davis H., Hunt C., Kirkpatrick S., Rudolf M.
BACKGROUND: Infant growth and lifestyle are now recognized as being critical determinants of later obesity. EMPOWER (Empowering Parents to Prevent Obesity at Weaning: Exploratory Research) was developed as an intervention for parents whose babies are at high risk. Delivered by specially trained health visitors, it is underpinned by the Family Partnership Model and uses a strengths-based, solution-focused way of working with families. METHODS: Mothers of babies participating in the pilot of EMPOWER in Leeds were recruited to take part in a study to examine perceptions about the programme's acceptability and usefulness. Interviews were taped and transcribed, and thematic analysis undertaken. RESULTS: Families talked positively about the approach of the EMPOWER health visitor with her emphasis on listening, partnership working and shared problem-solving. Parents particularly valued the use of a non-judgemental approach, which they felt had helped them to discuss openly, sensitive issues such as weight and diet. They identified a number of important benefits ranging from increased knowledge about the most appropriate types and amount of food to feed their toddler, to more far-reaching changes within the family as a whole, including modifications to their own diet and lifestyle. Programmes of this nature were perceived as more valuable than the standard help that is currently available. CONCLUSION: The EMPOWER programme appears to be both acceptable and valued by targeted parents and a potentially effective means of supporting high-risk families to prevent their children from developing obesity. An exploratory randomized controlled trial is now underway to ascertain the feasibility of conducting a definitive phase 3 trial.