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£1M to HELP tackle obesity risks during pregnancy

24 November 2009

A joint Cardiff University and NHS study designed to establish whether encouraging obese pregnant women to eat more healthily and take more exercise has a positive impact on both mother and child has received a £1M funding boost.

The Healthy Eating and Lifestyle in Pregnancy (HELP) project, funded by the National Prevention Research Initiative, will see researchers from Cardiff University’s Department of Primary Care and Public Health work alongside NHS midwives and ‘Slimming World’ consultants to help encourage obese pregnant women to moderate their weight gain during pregnancy and lose weight after the birth of their child by eating healthily and doing regular exercise.

Obesity in pregnancy remains a growing problem with an estimated 1 in 5 women in the UK attending antenatal care being defined as obese. Obesity is linked to increased risk of complications during pregnancy or childbirth and, in some cases, can result in pregnancy-induced hypertension, induction of labour and caesarean section.

Being overweight or obese has also been identified as a factor in more than half of maternal deaths between 2003-2005 and antenatal care costs are higher in overweight and obese women.

Dr Sharon Simpson from Cardiff University’s Department of Primary Care and Public Health, who will lead the study, said: "Pregnancy is a key time of change in women’s lives, when intervening on diet and physical activity could have a long term impact on both mother and child. This study is a novel way of working, involving a partnership between the NHS and a commercial organisation, to deliver an intervention which we hope will help women to manage their weight."

Karen Jewell, Consultant Midwife with Cardiff and Vale ULHB and advisor to the HELP study said: "Initial findings from a pilot study have been encouraging; we found that receiving this type of advice has helped pregnant women moderate their weight gain, whereas during previous pregnancies they’ve gained up to five stone. Not putting on additional weight has allowed them to enjoy a normal birth and given them more confidence."

"Midwives and Obstetricians are keen to support women in addressing lifestyle changes in pregnancy as this is important, not just for pregnancy, but for their future family’s health. "

The study, which starts in January 2010, aims to recruit 570 women through 20 recruitment centres across England and Wales.

The results of the study will be published in 2013 and, if successful, it is hoped the project will be rolled-out to maternity units across England and Wales.

The HELP study will be supported by the South East Wales Trials Unit based in Cardiff University’s School of Medicine at the University Hospital of Wales.

The South East Wales Trials Unit:

The South East Wales Trials Unit was funded by the Wales Office of Research and Development (WORD) in October 2006. It draws together existing expertise in trials and other well designed multi-centre studies to form an experienced team to support excellence in Wales.

The aims of SEWTU are:
* To increase the number of high quality trials in health and social care led by Welsh investigators
* To provide high quality co-ordination of multi-centre trials and other well designed studies across Wales, the UK and beyond
* To develop portfolios of expertise that are recognised both nationally and internationally
* To enhance collaborative working within the research and development infrastructure for Wales

High quality research requires excellent scientific methods, but also an emphasis on good collaborative working towards a common goal. SEWTU is aiming to build on its existing collaborations across Wales and beyond and is committed to working in partnership with all of the components of CRC Cymru to maximise the benefits to the people of Wales of this exciting initiative.

SEWTU is UKCRC-registered, demonstrating the ability to undertake large, multi-centre trials and other well designed studies to the highest standards.

Models of working with the Unit include full coordination, partnership, fellowships, studentships and discrete advice. We currently run 40 studies, with a combined value of over £16m.

* Children & Young People
* Behaviour Change
* Medical Devices
* Infections

Cardiff School of Medicine
Cardiff University’s School of Medicine is a significant contributor to healthcare in Wales, a major provider of professional staff for the National Health Service and an international centre of excellence for research delivering substantial health benefits locally and internationally. The school’s 800 staff include 500 research and academic staff who teach more than 2,000 students, including 1,110 postgraduate students.

The School is based at the Heath Park Campus, a site it shares the University Hospital of Wales, the third largest university hospital in the UK. The School has an all-Wales role, contributing greatly to promoting, enhancing and protecting the nation’s health. A key partner in this role is the National Health Service (NHS) in Wales, with which the School is linked at all levels. This mutual dependency is illustrated by the teaching of medical undergraduates in more than 150 hospitals located in all of Wales’ health authorities. The medical curriculum followed at the School enables students to acquire and apply knowledge, skills, judgement and attitudes appropriate to delivering a high standard of professional care. Around 300 new doctors currently graduate from the School every year and the Welsh Assembly Government has invested substantially in new teaching facilities to increase this number further.

The School is an international leader in basic and clinically applied research activities and scored highly in the most recent Government Research Assessment Exercise. School of Medicine researchers annually win tens of millions of pounds in research awards to work with Government, the healthcare industries and the charitable sector on the most pressing issues of human health. The School has six interdisciplinary research groups to draw upon its own strength in depth and the vast range of expertise available across Cardiff University. These groups are addressing cancer; health sciences research; cardiovascular sciences; genomic approaches to health and disease; infection, immunity and inflammation; metabolism repair and regeneration. The School continually invests in facilities, with major developments including the Henry Wellcome Building for Biomedical Research in Wales, the largest enterprise of its kind ever in Wales. This £11M centre contains research laboratories and facilities for patients to participate in investigations of new disease treatments.

Cardiff and Vale University Local Health Board

• Cardiff and Vale University Health Board provides health services for over 445,000 people living in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan.

• We also serve a wider population across South and Mid Wales for specialties such as paediatric intensive care, specialist children's services, renal services, cardiac services, neurology, bone marrow transplantation and medical genetics.

• We provide healthcare in people’s own homes, community clinics, and hospitals, for outpatient, inpatient and emergency care. We manage nine hospitals and seventeen health centres, and also provide services in health centres run by our NHS partner organisations both within Cardiff and the Vale and beyond, in Caerphilly and Merthyr for example.

• We are also responsible for the delivery of NHS primary care services in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan, including general practitioners, community pharmacists, dentists and optometrists.

• Cardiff and Vale University Health Board’s nine hospitals are; Barry Hospital, Cardiff Royal Infirmary West Wing, Children’s Hospital for Wales, University Hospital Llandough, Rookwood Hospital, St. David’s Hospital, University Dental Hospital, University Hospital of Wales, and Whitchurch Hospital.

• We are a teaching health board with close links to Cardiff University. The University boasts a high profile teaching, research and development role within the UK and abroad. Together we are training the next generation of medical professionals.

• The University Health Board’s income will be approximately £940 million.

For more information, visit our website

Dr Sharon Simpson
South East Wales Trials Unit (SEWTU)
Cardiff University
School of Medicine

Tel: 029 20 687181