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Empowering Mothers to Prevent Obesity At Weaning; Exploratory Research

EMPOWER is a feasibility trial to test a newly developed intervention delivered by specialist health visitors to prevent infant and early childhood obesity.

Find out more about EMPOWER:

More Information


Funding and Partners

Our Team


More Information

The high prevalence of overweight and obesity in children starting school points to the need for earlier interventions aimed at the primary prevention of obesity during infancy.

Evidence suggests that parenting, early feeding styles, an infant's exposure to foods and infant feeding behaviour are correlated with weight status. Addressing early lifestyle is part of the national strategy for obesity prevention but to date trials targeting this age group are scarce, and none exist in the UK.

The EMPOWER feasibility trial involves the implemention and evaluation of a health-visitor led intervention that works in partnership with parents to support the development of healthy lifestyle behaviours during infancy.

Following piloting, a feasibility trial has recruited 62 obese (BMI>35kg/m2) mothers from the high risk antenatal clinics in Leeds and Birmingham.

The EMPOWER intervention is being delivered by specialist health visitors who are trained in the Family Partnership Model and HENRYLink opens in a new window approach to child obesity. It consists of 6-8 visits until the child reaches 16 months of age.

Qualitative and quantitative outcome measurements are being collected at baseline when the infant is 6-8 weeks of age, and again when the child is 9 months and 18 months of age. These include:

  • Anthropometry
  • Self-reported feeding practices
  • Infant and mother food intakes
  • Activity levels

The feasibility of running a multicentre RCT is being assessed using a range of process data including user and provider acceptability and satisfaction, and cost-effectiveness.


  • Sue Hanson (2011).

The EMPOWER project - targeting children at risk of obesity. Presented at Primary Care 2011, May 25-26th Birmingham, UK. (PDF Document)

  • Rebecca Lang, Jane Barlow, Sue Hanson, Mary C. Rudolf (2011).

Recruitment of obese pregnant women to clinical research trials: what is the most effective strategy?. Presented at the 18th ECO meeting, May 25-28th Istanbul, Turkey.Link opens in a new window

  • Rebecca Lang, Jane Barlow, Sandra Whitlock, Daphne Kaklamanou, Sue Hanson, Karen Sylvester & Mary C. Rudolf (2010).

EMPOWER - a home-visiting intervention for infants at high risk of obesity. Presented at the 20th ECOG meeting, Nov 17-20th Brussels, Belgium.Link opens in a new window

  • Barlow, J., Whitlock, S., Hanson, S., Davis, H., Hunt, C., Kirkpatrick, S., Rudolf, MC. (2010).

Preventing obesity at weaning: parental views about the EMPOWER programme. Child: Care, Health and Development: doi:10.1111/j.1365-2214.2010.01107.x

  • Hanson, S. (2010).

Empowering change. Reflections on a research project in which a specialist health visitor is working in partnership with families where children are at risk of obesity. Community Practitioner: 83 (4) 36-37.

Funding and Partners

EMPOWER is supported by:
  • The Department of Health
  • The Child Growth Foundation

Support is also provided by the Leeds Primary Care Trust and the Heart of Birmingham Primary Care Trust. Ethics Approval granted through the South Birmingham Ethics Committee.

Our Team

Professor Jane BarlowLink opens in a new window, Principal Investigator, Warwick University
Professor Mary Rudolf, Principal Investigator, Leeds University
Dr Beckie Lang, Research Fellow, Warwick University
Sue Hanson, Specialist Health Visitor, Leeds PCT
Karen Sylvester, Specialist Health Visitor, Heart of Birmingham PCT


Professor Tim Cole, Medical Statistics, UCL
Professor Sarah Cowley, Community Practice Development, Kings College London
Professor Hilton Davis, Child Health PSychology, Kings College London/Institute of Psychiatry
Dr Laurel Edmunds, Research Psychologist
Dr Penny Gibson, RCPCH Advisor on Childhood Obesity
Professor Neil McIntosh, Child Life and Health, University of Edinburgh
Professor Stavros Petrou, Health Economics, Warwick University
Dr Pinki Sahota, Childhood Obesity, Leeds Metropolitan University
Professor Sarah Stewart-Brown, Public Health, Warwick University
Professor Carolyn Summerbell, Nutrition, Durham University

For more information, contact

Dawn Cannon at WIFWULink opens in a new window