Study to discover babies' risk of becoming overweight

Health visitor with mother and baby
19 May 2015 10:19:47.070
PA 73/15

A new computer programme, developed at The University of Nottingham, could enable health visitors to spot which babies are more likely to become overweight later in life.

The user-friendly, multimedia computer programme, called ProAsk (Proactive Assessment of Overweight Risk during Infancy), uses data based on questions answered by parents and carers to determine how likely it is a baby will develop a weight problem when they are older, compared to other infants.

Nottingham academics are collaborating on a study, led by Anglia Ruskin University, to examine whether parents and carers find ProAsk helpful and whether health visitors can use their results to tailor advice to parents and explore possible ways to help keep their babies at a healthy weight.
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Sensitive and constructive help

Professor Cris Glazebrook, Professor of Health Psychology in The University of Nottingham’s School of Medicine, said: “More than one in three children in the UK are overweight by the time they start school. We believe that our digital tool will help health visitors to identify babies who are most at risk and to communicate that risk to parents in a sensitive and constructive way.” 

ProAsk, developed by the Health e-Learning and Media (HELM) group based in the School of Health Sciences at Nottingham, asks parents and carers a set of questions that are based on identified risk factors such as parental weight and lifestyle during pregnancy, baby’s birth weight and growth which research has shown increase the risk of a baby becoming overweight as they get older.

During home visits health visitors will ask parents to enter this information into the programme which will be delivered via a tablet computer. The study will examine whether parents and carers find ProAsk helpful and whether health visitors can use the results to tailor their advice to parents and to explore possible ways to help keep their babies at a healthy weight.

Sarah Redsell, Professor of Public Health at Anglia Ruskin, is the principal investigator for the study. She said: “Children who are above a healthy weight are more likely to be ill and have time off school. Being very overweight in childhood can also sow the seeds for health problems in later life such as heart disease and diabetes.  

“One approach is to try and intervene early in life. The information we get from this study will help us understand whether or not parents/carers would like to know about this risk, and if so whether health visitors can work with them to help them understand how they might lower the risk for their baby.”

The project will be carried out in Nottingham and Cambridgeshire and will see Nottingham City Care Partnership and Cambridge Community Services working with Anglia Ruskin together with the Universities of Nottingham, Lincoln and Cambridge on the 18-month study, which is funded by the Medical Research Council.

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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham has 43,000 students and is ‘the nearest Britain has to a truly global university, with campuses in China and Malaysia modelled on a headquarters that is among the most attractive in Britain’ (Times Good University Guide 2014). It is also one of the most popular universities in the UK among graduate employers and the winner of ‘Research Project of the Year’ at the THE Awards 2014. It is ranked in the world’s top one per cent of universities by the QS World University Rankings, and 8th in the UK by research power according to REF 2014.

The University of Nottingham in Malaysia (UNMC) is holding events throughout 2015 to celebrate 15 years as a pioneer of transnational education. Based in Semenyih, UNMC was established as the UK's first overseas campus in Malaysia and one of the first world-wide.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest-ever fundraising campaign, is delivering the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news…

Story credits

More information is available from Professor Cris Glazebrook in the School of Medicine, University of Nottingham on +44 (0)115 823 0420,

Emma Thorne Emma Thorne - Media Relations Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5793 Location: University Park

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