Can an established preschool obesity prevention programme (HENRY) be successfully delivered by trained volunteers?
Abstract IntroductionAlmost a quarter of 4-5 year olds are overweight. HENRY (Health, Exercise, Nutrition for the Really Young) delivers evidence-based interventions with consistently positive results when delivered by trained staff. This study tested whether this intervention could also be successfully delivered by trained volunteers.MethodThe programme was delivered one-to-one over eight 1-hour sessions. Baseline and post programme data was analysed for 87 parents and, for a sub-sample, at 6 months follow-up. Delivery was at the parent's home or community venue according to parent preference in four London boroughs. Approximately 80% of programmes were delivered by volunteers with a similar demographic profile to target parents and 20% by staff to enable a comparative evaluation.ResultsProgrammes provided by volunteers and staff showed similar statistically significant improvements in self-reported parent and child emotional wellbeing, parenting efficacy, and fruit and vegetable consumption. Additional benefits were seen in family eating (e.g. eating healthy meals and eating with others) and food purchasing (e.g. reading labels on food packaging) behaviours. Follow-up data showed that some changes were maintained six months later. Parent and volunteer ratings of the programme and training were very positive, with high retention (mean attendance of 7.2 out of 8 sessions).ConclusionVolunteers from similar backgrounds to target families can be recruited and trained to deliver structured obesity prevention programmes, resulting in the same positive lifestyle changes as those delivered by paid staff. External funding details Department of Health: Health and Social Care Volunteering Fund grant (Ref: 2013/National/055).