Our Family Health
Digital weight management for children & families
In England, almost a third of children aged between 2 and 15 are above a healthy weight. And due to variation across the country in the local provision of weight management services, not all families have access to face-to-face family weight management services.
Public Health England (PHE) recognised a gap for freely available, scalable, accessible and sustainable weight management support. Recognising their role in supporting local services, and the role of technology in all of our lives, PHE sought to co-design a digital service that would help whole families adopt healthy lifestyle behaviour changes to help their children either maintain or grow into a healthy weight.
Working in a blended team, we supported PHE to focus on the rapid adoption of technology to develop digital weight management interventions. This would allow us to deliver more cost-effective, accessible and scalable solutions to help families adopt healthier behaviour, and support more children to maintain a healthy weight as they leave primary school.
We conducted three rounds of user research and testing with over 20 families and children from a diverse mix of backgrounds, geographies and abilities. This helped us generate in-depth insight on family needs, expectations of weight management and what healthy living support for the whole family could look like.
We learned that whilst parents and children understand the concept of healthy, it’s often a binary understanding and one they struggle to translate into action. Experiences of existing face-to-face weight management services are often positive but it can be hard to sustain the change.
Other insights from our research revealed that:
- there’s an unmet need for weight management support in children and families
- it’s about health, not weight when it comes to children
- having the whole family on board is important but challenging
- children’s needs centre around having fun and families prioritised needs that link health to fun for children
- the whole family is connected and online 24/7 across devices
- there’s a gap in the market for high-quality, whole-family digital weight management tools, rather than healthy eating and physical activity tools aimed at adults
Our Family Health
Our Family Health, an early-stage prototype, is a healthier lifestyle service that supports families in healthy eating, being active, parenting and happiness. The tool acts as a family health companion, helping them set goals around these areas while tracking progress and includes personalised high-quality content, tools, games, activities and resources. Parents, carers and children between four and nine years old can use the service anytime and anywhere to get trusted and practical tips.
The tool is as much for children as it is for adults, including a child-safe section with videos and games that adults can curate, and second-life gamification linked to goal tracking and achievements.
I feel like this is the kind of thing that would keep supporting you, rather than getting dusty on the shelf like all the other things I’ve tried. This service wouldn’t abandon me!
This project has led to over 55 diverse needs in relation to health goals for children; from breaking old habits and starting new ones to dealing with children’s challenging behaviour. Behavioural science suggests that over 32 target behaviours need to be performed for families with overweight children to achieve a healthy weight.
These user needs and person-centred service principles could be utilised as transferable weight management design patterns in other local, regional and national contexts.
Our Family Health passed the Alpha service assessment and is supporting PHE’s digital maturity and capability building to understand what steps they must take to deliver and continually improve this public-facing service for the first time. There is a Beta plan to continue to take the project forward, focusing on developing the minimum viable product and testing with families across the country.