Case study

Health, exercise, nutrition for the really young (HENRY)

HENRY addresses obesity in childhood and beyond by helping parents adopt a healthier family lifestyle.

Child eating at a HENRY centre
Image copyright Health, exercise, nutrition for the really young (HENRY)

The HENRY approach combines 3 elements:

  • behaviour change strategies
  • parenting skills
  • improved knowledge about food and activity for under 5s and the whole family

Over the past 8 years, HENRY has established a partnership with local public health departments, NHS trusts and children’s services across England and Wales that includes:

  • Royal Society for Public Health-accredited training for practitioners working with young families
  • preventive group programmes to help parents adopt a healthier family lifestyle
  • targeted one-to-one and group programmes for families of children at greater risk of obesity or already overweight
  • community engagement and peer support

Over 12,000 practitioners have been trained and 8,000 parents have taken part in family programmes. There is a 98% approval rating of the programmes – with parents rating them as good (21%) or great (77%). 93% of families were leading healthy or very healthy lifestyles by the end of the programmes compared to 21% at the start. By the end of the programme 42% of children in participating families were eating fruit and vegetables 5 times a day compared to 21% at the start and 95% of practitioners say the HENRY training met or exceeded their expectations.

Programmes have resulted in positive changes:

  • increased consumption of fruit, vegetables and water
  • reduced consumption of foods high in fat and/or sugar such as cakes, biscuits and chocolate, as well as sugary drinks, for both adults and children
  • more frequent family mealtimes
  • reduced screen time
  • increased physical activity for the whole family

In Leeds, where HENRY is part of the city-wide obesity strategy and delivered in children’s centres across the city, obesity rates at reception stage have fallen from 10.3% to 8.7% over a 7-year period. The national trends have remained almost static. The gap between obesity rates at age 5 in the least deprived and most deprived areas of Leeds is narrowing, with obesity rates dropping from 13.8% to 9.7% in the most deprived areas over the last 5 years.

Published 20 January 2017