Sixth form students learn research skills to take part in key study into childhood obesity | Action Medical Research

Sixth form students learn research skills to take part in key study into childhood obesity

17 October 2011

Sixth form students at eleven secondary schools across the Midlands are being taught research skills so they can help to gather and analyse data as part of a major study into childhood obesity. The study is being funded by children’s charity Action Medical Research.

The sixth form students are being taught the skills as part of a three year study looking at the links between obesity in teenagers and sleep deprivation, academic performance and the use of electronic gadgets such as games consoles.

Once the sixth formers have been trained, they will be tasked with supervising the study involving 800 11-12 year olds from their own schools for one year. A new cohort of sixth formers will be trained each year.

The younger children will complete a 7-day sleep diary and questionnaires about their sleeping patterns and their use of technology, once a year, for the three years.

They will also wear watch-like devices on their wrists for one-week periods which monitor sleep patterns by detecting movement. The children’s height and weight will also be measured and information on their academic performance will be collected.

Project Leader, Dr Taheri, from the Diabetes Centre at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital, said: “I run the UK’s largest obesity clinic at the hospital so it’s really important to me to be able to contribute to trying to prevent this condition in children. My clinic mainly sees adult patients but we are getting more and more children coming in with diabetes, obstructed breathing and wanting surgery at just 15 or 16.

“In the Midlands one quarter of Year 6 children are obese and around 70% of those will grow into obese adults. We are hoping our research will lead to an intervention that could help teenagers to sleep better and reduce their risk of obesity.”

The project team, who are based at the Diabetes Centre, Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham Heartlands Hospital and University of Birmingham, have been awarded the grant of £138,762 from Action Medical Research to run the study.

They will spend the next few months running training programmes with the sixth formers at all the schools so they are fully equipped to supervise the study, go through the ethics process, and then gather and analyse the data. The sixth formers will then carry out the research during February, March and April next year.

Dr Taheri, said: “The sixth form students benefit from this as they gain key scientific and analytical skills which they can use in their studies. Also, they can put on their CVs that they have taken part in a national research programme which might help them secure a place at university in the future.”

Dr Alexandra Dedman, Senior Research Evaluation Manager with Action Medical Research, said: “We are delighted to be funding this important and innovative study into childhood obesity. The results of this study could help to define how straightforward changes in teenagers’ lifestyles might help tackle obesity. The researchers envisage that their findings might be useful for widespread health education campaigns.

“The World Health Organisation has described childhood obesity as one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st Century. New strategies to tackle it could have the potential to bring lifelong benefits – enhancing quality of life, boosting self confidence, improving academic performance and of course, reducing their chances of developing serious illnesses.”


Schools taking part in the research project are:

• Sutton Coldfield Grammar School for Girls, Sutton Coldfield
• Hamstead Hall Community Learning Centre, Hamstead, Birmingham
• Holte School, Lozells, Birmingham
• Solihull School, Solihull
• Handsworth Girls School, Handsworth, Birmingham
• Droitwich Spa High School, Droitwich Spa
• Foremarke Hall School, Milton, Derbyshire
• Repton School, Repton, Derbyshire
• Bordesley Green Girls School, Bordesley Green, Birmingham
• Abbot Beyne School, Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire
• Bablake School, Coventry, Warwickshire

For further information please contact: Claudine Powell, Communications Manager. T: 01403 327478
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Action Medical Research is the leading UK-wide medical research charity dedicated to helping babies and children. We know that medical research can save and change children’s lives. For nearly 60 years we have been instrumental in significant medical breakthroughs, including the development of the UK polio vaccine and ultrasound scanning in pregnancy. Today, we continue to find and fund the very best medical research to help stop the suffering of babies and children caused by disease and disability. We want to make a difference in tackling premature birth and treating sick and vulnerable babies, helping children affected by disability, disabling conditions and infections and targeting rare diseases that together severely affect many forgotten children.

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