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The Wessex FRIEND Toolbox (Family Risk IdEntificatioN and Decision)

Principal Investigator: Dr Nisreen Alwan and Dr Dianna Smith

Team members: Dr Nisreen Alwan (Associate Professor in Public Health, School of Primary Care and Population Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton), Dr Dianna Smith (Lecturer in Geographic Information Science, Geography & Environment, University of Southampton), Professor Paul Roderick (Professor of Public Health, School of Primary Care and Population Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton), Dr Ivaylo Vassilev (Principal Research Fellow, School of Health Sciences, University of Southampton)

Start: 21 October 2019
Ends: 20 September 2021

Project Partners: University of Southampton, Solent NHS Trust, Southampton City Council, Portsmouth City Council, Hampshire County Council, Health Education England, Oxford Brookes University

Lay summary

We know that helping families think about healthy lifestyles is complex and different approaches may be necessary to help families, and we want to try different approaches to help our understanding and build an evidence base. The SLOPE CORE feasibility testing is the first phase of the Wessex FRIEND project, and is part of a broader programme of work, aiming to improve the health of children and families in our area. This work also aims to support those with the most need, so that inequalities between children are reduced. The SLOPE CORE tool will be accompanied by support for any family where a child might be at risk of becoming overweight. It is being tested by itself in the first instance, just so that we can get some initial feedback and improve it before combining it with other components of interventions. The later stages of the Wessex FRIEND project will involve combining the SLOPE CORE tool with area based risk measures, and with a social networking intervention, which aims to support families think about what is available in their local community to support healthy activities.

We are really hoping to find out how health visitors and parents find the tool, so that we can improve it, and think about how it could be used (or not!) in the future. We are also looking to better understand the ECHO programme, and provide evidence for the impact that the ECHO programme is having. We have included questions on the relationship between health visitors and families for this reason. We are aware that for many families, there are many barriers that dictate diet and physical activity choices, and they may have other needs that take priority. As a result, we are also planning other work looking into how best to support families in need of extra support. This includes investigating various interventions, all aimed at reducing food poverty and improving children’s diets. We are hoping that, over the course of this research programme, we are able to start thinking about how to better support our really vulnerable families, to give those families a chance to take part in research and shape the interventions that might be put in place for families like themselves in the future, and demonstrate the importance of the health visitor’s role in building relationships and supporting families in really challenging circumstances.