A detailed study which looks into ways to tackle the higher numbers of underweight and overweight children in black and minority ethnic communities has earned a professor from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) a prestigious national award.
Bertha Ochieng, Professor of Integrated Health and Social Care, has spent months speaking to the black community in Leicester to examine weight issues among children with the aim of developing a training tool for weight management.
She received the Mary Seacole Leadership Award and Scholar for her findings, which will be published in the new year.
Bertha, who has years of experience in health and social care, said: “My focus was on black children in Leicester because local and national statistics indicate the prevalence of obesity and being underweight is higher among the black and minority ethnic children.
“Given that childhood obesity is linked to health issues such as cardiovascular problems, diabetes, mental health and cancer in adulthood, the children are likely to experience disproportionate levels of such illnesses later in life.
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“I collected the views of the parents and spoke with health visitors who had direct contact with parents in the community. The parents and health visitors were great. I think it was important to give parents a voice to discuss what they knew about healthy weight maintenance in childhood.
“It is not as if families are not knowledgeable about healthy eating but there are so many factors that influence their decisions and which work against them making the healthy choices for their children. For example if you are an asylum seeker you would spend more time thinking and working on your status in society than about healthy eating."
Professor Ochieng said she was delighted to receive an award named after Mary Seacole who made a significant contribution to nursing in the 19th century, particularly around the time of the Crimean War.
Professor Ochieng said: “Mary Seacole's work during the war and afterwards – her leadership and determination – was just incredible.
“Mary Seacole was African Caribbean and she was before her time, battling racial discrimination and sexism. At some stage she had been forgotten about, due to racial prejudice and being a woman - issues that we are still experiencing - - but we now have an award that aims to embody her work.
“To win that award and take the name of Mary Seacole forward is important to me and I am delighted.”
Professor Ochieng says her research into healthy weight maintenance in early childhood also aligns with DMU's strategic vision – that her work should have a positive impact on communities and bring about change for the public good.
Posted on Wednesday 5th December 2018