My research uses health information collected about children, including at school or in the course of their NHS care, to understand the household, social and environmental circumstances that give rise to children becoming severely overweight, and the consequences of this for their health and well-being. This is a major problem for children and their families and for society, particularly in east London where more than a third of children leaving primary school are overweight or severely overweight., especially for children from south Asian backgrounds who – if severely overweight as children – are more likely to develop diabetes as adults or while pregnant.
As part of a programme of work to tackle this, we are joining up information about children’s weight and their health from school, general practice, hospital and community records and working with families, communities, public health and health service planners in east London to find the best moments and ways to help. This builds on more than twenty years’ experience in east London of trusted partnerships in the use of patient data to improve the health of, and health services for, our population which has created a ‘learning health system’ so that every patient contact is available to learn from no matter where they are seen. This has already helped improve health and health care for adults with diabetes, heart, lung and kidney diseases.
We are now planning to use the same approach to improve health services for severely overweight children and their families and to make cities healthier for children and families be healthier, for example, by making it easier to walk more or eat more healthy food. Our joined-up system will make it easier to measure whether these improvements are working.