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Positive Online Weight Reduction Study investigates how Internet resources could help reduce obesity

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The Internet can play a role in reducing obesity in today”s society, according to latest research at the University of Southampton.

The Positive Online Weight Reduction (POWeR) project, being carried out by the University of Southampton, is assessing what online resources can provide.

Paul Little, Professor in Primary Care Researh, expalined: “Obesity is one of the major public health threats of our time. The internet could potentially provide an ideal way to give patients interactive advice based on their personal situation and progress, with the support of a nurse to oversee, encourage and advise patients as necessary. At present nurses do not have the time to provide the intensive support needed to address the problem, and this could be a cost-effective way of filling this gap in provision.”

The project has already designed, developed and piloted an obesity management website to support both practice nurses and obese patients in weight loss and weight maintenance. It addresses the most common motivational beliefs, allowing patients to select information relevant to their own concerns.

Preliminary results of the pilot study suggests the internet gives valuable support to both nurses and patients. Professor Little and his team, has now received and additional £1million grant from the NIHR Health Technology Assessment (HTA) programme to carry out a study that will extend the website and assess the effectiveness of nurse-led intervention, with the aid of internet-based resources.

The study will recruit 660 patients with a body mass index of more than 30. A third of the patients will receive ‘intensive” nursing support as well as access to the website. Another third of patients will work through the website and be prompted to use it by email but will have ‘minimal” contact with nurses. The remaining third will have usual care – brief advice by a practice nurse and follow-up appointments for weighing.