Internet could help nurses treat obesity, say researchers

January 12, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- Nurses and patients could be given more support to reduce the amount of obesity in today’s society through internet-based resources, according to research at the University of Southampton.

Obesity levels are constantly rising in the UK and are a major threat to public health. There are many initiatives to drive down the numbers of overweight people, yet there is little research into how computers and the internet can assist primary care when treating people in need of losing weight.

However a project, the Positive Online Weight Reduction (POWeR) project, being carried out by the University of Southampton, is assessing what support the internet can provide.

Paul Little, Professor in Primary Care Research at the University who is leading the project, comments: “Obesity is one of the major public health threats of our time. The internet could potentially provide an ideal way to give patients interactive advice based on their personal situation and progress, with the support of a nurse to oversee, encourage and advise patients as necessary. At present nurses do not have the time to provide the intensive support needed to address the problem, and this could be a cost-effective way of filling this gap in provision.”

The project has already designed, developed and piloted an obesity management website to support both practice nurses and obese patients in weight loss and weight maintenance. It addresses the most common motivational beliefs, allowing patients to select information relevant to their own concerns. Preliminary results of the pilot study, which was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Research for Patient Benefit programme, show that the internet gives valuable support to both nurses and patients.

Professor Little and his team, has now received and additional £1million grant from the NIHR Health Technology Assessment (HTA) programme to carry out a study that will extend the website and assess the effectiveness of nurse-led intervention, with the aid of internet-based resources.

The study will recruit 660 patients with a body mass index of more than 30. A third of the patients will receive ‘intensive’ nursing support as well as access to the website. Another third of will work through the website and be prompted to use it by email but will have ‘minimal’ contact with nurses. The remaining third will have usual care - brief advice by a practice nurse and follow-up appointments for weighing. The success of the research will be judged by the extent to which weight loss can be achieved and maintained and by the estimated cost effectiveness of each approach.

The study also aims to explore the further development of the website for the possibility of use in other contexts, for example a library, ensuring the treatment is accessible to people without a computer at home.

Professor Little adds: “To date there has been relatively little successful exploitation of modern technology in obesity management, particularly the use of computers and the web, which could potentially provide a sophisticated, effective personalised intervention and monitoring for very low costs. The intervention has already received positive feedback during piloting and, assuming the main study can confirm and extend our preliminary findings, it has the potential to make an important difference in the management of in everyday practice.”

Explore further: Wide-reaching report finds strong support for nurse and pharmacist prescribing

Related Stories

Calling nurses to exercise as role models for their patients

August 30, 2011

Nurses, just like many of their patients, struggle to find time and motivation to exercise. But a new study may give these all-important caregivers some additional pressure and responsibility: nurses' attitudes can influence ...

Joining a diet club could double weight loss

September 8, 2011

Overweight and obese adults referred to the commercial weight loss programme Weight Watchers lost twice as much weight over a year than those who received standard care from GP practices alone, according to a new study by ...

Nurses boost well-being for cancer survivors

October 14, 2011

The Queensland University of Technology (QUT ) School of Nursing and Midwifery, in Brisbane, Australia, has designed a program to assist cancer survivors in self-managing their health and emotional concerns.

Recommended for you

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jan 12, 2012
"nurses do not have the time to provide the intensive support needed to address the problem"

Nurses giving advice on obesity ? Sort of like calling the kettle black. Nursing is a physically demanding job. Nurses , being they NEED to BE fit IN a physically demanding job , should have to undergo a physical which would either allow or preclude them from this physically demanding job. If a nurse cannot complete a physically demanding physical evaluation , squats , sit-ups , pull ups , they should either be allowed to move into another job such as a lab technician , which isn't so demanding or they should be let go.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.