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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), Dr Grace Grove (Clinical Research Fellow, School of Primary Care, Population Sciences and Medical Education, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton), Dr Nida Ziauddeen (Research Fellow, School of Primary Care, Population Sciences and Medical Education, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton),Dr Lauren Wilson (Research Fellow, Geography & Environment, University of Southampton)


Start: 21 October 2019
Ends: 31 March 2022 

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 prioritising health is complex, particularly for families living in social and economic disadvantage. The SLOPE CORE tool estimates the future risk of childhood overweight at the start of primary school. It can be used by health professionals in consultation with the families they are working with to help facilitate various interventions towards the prevention of childhood obesity. We are testing the acceptability and feasibility of this tool in the first phase of the Wessex FRIEND project, as part of a broader programme of work, aiming to improve the health of children and families in Wessex. We are trialling it with health visitors in the first instance, just so that we can get some initial feedback and improve it before combining it with other components of interventions.

We are also refining and tailoring area-based child poverty, food poverty and greenspace access measures to the local and regional context and population, so that our risk tool takes into account the area profile and resources where the family lives. These area-based measures, which represent neighbourhoods, may also be used independently by local governments and civil society/third sector to help in targeting resources to better support people living in areas of higher risk for food and child poverty, or with poorer access to greenspaces.

The next stage of the project will involve combining the SLOPE CORE tool with the area-based risk measures on one platform, the Wessex FRIEND (Family Risk IdEntificatioN and Decision) Toolbox, to be utilised by frontline professionals dealing with disadvantaged families. Within this platform, we will also test the feasibility of the Generating Engagement in Network Involvement (Genie), a facilitated social networking intervention, which aims to support families think about their social networks and 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 Toolbox, 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 Enhanced Child Health Visiting Offer (ECHO) programme delivered by Solent NHS Trust, and explore the relationship between health visitors and families within this unique programme. This is important to describe the health visitor’s role in building relationships and addressing the wider determinants of the health and wellbeing of families living in challenging circumstances.