Researchers at NIHR Bristol BRC Nutrition and Lifestyle theme have been awarded NIHR funding for their ‘AIM2Change: Helping adolescents to increase their intrinsic motivation to change weight’ proposal.

The research co–principal investigators are Dr Elanor Hinton (Research Fellow in THS) and Professor Julian Hamilton-Shield (clinical lead of Care of Childhood Obesity clinic & THS) together with Dr Aidan Searle (Research Fellow, Dental School) as lead on qualitative methodology and Jennifer Cox (Chartered Health Psychologist/current GW4 MRC DTP student) as Research Associate and therapist. The work will also benefit from the expertise of Drs Giri and Semple from the Care of Childhood Obesity (CoCO) clinic, Professor Ingram Wright (ACT expert) and Dr Rebecca Kandiyali (health economics).

Ms Gail Thornton has been integral to the development of this grant as the patient and public involvement co-applicant. To ensure the voice of young people living with obesity is included from the outset, the team have conducted four patient and public involvement (PPI) sessions with stakeholders. They will recruit a PPI advisory group to continue to ensure the patient voice is prominent and integrated, and that the resulting intervention is acceptable.

This work follows directly from research conducted by Jennifer Cox in her GW4 PhD study in the Nutrition theme during the current NIHR Bristol BRC. Obesity in childhood has significant co-morbidities and is a predictor for morbidity in adulthood. Behavioural interventions for severe obesity are marked by only modest improvement in weight. The CoCO Clinic in Bristol is currently the only formally funded, tier 3 service for children with morbid obesity.

This research aims to co-develop a person-centred intervention based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), focusing on understanding and accommodating the views of the people who will use the intervention, to improve its relevance, and outcomes for them and to increase participation in and adherence to the programme. The ACT programme will be delivered one-to-one to the young people. Qualitative interviews will be conducted with participants at the end of each session to gain an understanding of the comprehensibility, acceptability, and value of intervention components to take forward to a consensus meeting.

Co-development of this ACT-based programme will allow the team to proceed to test the intervention in a feasibility trial over two sites, and ultimately the efficacy of the intervention for weight management in a trial across the new Complication of Excess Weight (CEW) clinics. This definitive trial could have a large impact on young people with obesity across the UK.