Sixth formers trained in research skills: collecting data for key childhood obesity study | Action Medical Research

Sixth formers trained in research skills: collecting data for key childhood obesity study

23 February 2012

Sixth form students at nine secondary schools across the Midlands have been 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 have been trained in these 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.

They have been 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 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 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 are also measured and information on their academic performance 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.

The sixth formers at all the participating schools have been trained so that they are fully equipped to supervise the study, go through the ethics process, and then gather and analyse the data. The students are currently carrying out the research until May this year. Data will be analysed during May and all the sixth formers undertaking the project will write a scientific abstract based on the findings of the study.

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 Caroline Johnston, 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.”

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Schools taking part in the research project are:
• Abbot Beyne School, Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire
• Foremarke Hall School, Milton, Derbyshire
• Repton School, Repton, Derbyshire
• Bordesley Green Girls School, Bordesley Green, Birmingham
• Sutton Coldfield Grammar School for Girls, Sutton Coldfield
• Hamstead Hall Community Learning Centre, Hamstead, Birmingham
• Droitwich Spa High School, Droitwich Spa
• Bablake School, Coventry, Warwickshire
• Solihull School, Solihull

For further information please contact:

Toni Slater, Interim Communications Manager
T: 01403 327478

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Action Medical Research - the leading UK-wide medical research charity dedicated to helping babies and children - is celebrating 60 years of vital research in 2012. We’ve been funding medical breakthroughs since we began in 1952 and have spent more than £100 million on research that has helped save thousands of children’s lives and changed many more. 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
• targeting rare diseases that together severely affect many forgotten children.

But there is still so much more to do. Make 2012 a special year and help fund more life-changing research for some of the UK’s sickest babies and children.

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