Student Dissertation Topic Highlights (22.05.15)

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A Study on the Effectiveness of Daily Weight Measurements in Aiding Losing Weight in Obese RAF Servicemen

By Donald Ross, MPH Student and Assistant Head of Clinical Operations at Defence Primary Healthcare

Many people will be surprised to learn that the military mirrors our societal problem with obesity.  In particular, the RAF Health report in 2013 showed that 12.3% of their personnel had a BMI >30kg/m2 .  This population is predominately male and has access to good medical advice and free gym facilities as well as opportunities for team sports and adventurous training.  So why do we have a continued problem?  There is much evidence that regular monitoring of diet, exercise or weight improves compliance with weight loss, but much of this evidence is founded on middle-aged female populations and does not generalise to the military demographic.

Therefore, I have elected to do what the MPH handbook advises against (because of the logistic difficulties in such tight timelines): conduct a Randomised Control Trial.  This RCT provides both arms with British Heart Foundation “Eating Well” advice and a routine training package of around 3 x 1 hour gym sessions per week.  The intervention arm is asked to weigh themselves daily and keep a log and the Physical Training Instructors will check once per week that the log is up-to-date.  This will be conducted over 8 weeks (short but still sufficient to demonstrate a difference in weight loss) and results will be taken around the end of July just in time for my draft submission deadline.

Has it been as difficult as the handbook suggests?  Well yes, but I have had access to some funding (for the scales), access to the subjects because they are my patients, and administrative support.  The down side is that I have had to go through a MoD Scientific Advisory Committee to approve the science as well as the University supervisors, who did not always agree.  The ethics clearance has been tortuous and the ethics committee has been trying to advise on the science as well.  Overall I am happy this was a good idea because it, hopefully, can produce some useful information to help influence our strategy on tackling obesity in the military, but I would agree with the MPH handbook and dissuade anyone doing an RCT unless they have sufficient time and resources to support them.  See you at the graduation.

Author: Claire

PhD Student, International Public Health

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