Wednesday 07 Jun 2023

India’s self help group adopted to address obesity in UK


Photo Credits: Difficult Dialogues 2017 Monica Lakhanpaul Narayan Pissurlenkar



India’s country wide model of local women groups has been the subject for the University College London’s (UCL) study on reducing obesity cases in the United Kingdom. It is in the process of being adapted as a pilot project for a segment of the Bangladeshi community in UK.

The project, called Nurture Early for Optimal Nutrition (NEON) has taken after the Indian model of female Asha workers addressing local women’s groups, thus helping in improving maternal and neonatal survival rates.

Bangladeshi children living in east London have known to be at a much higher risk of poor nutrition and obesity than the average child in UK. This has been attributed to poor nutrition that affects people from childhood till adulthood and leading to heart diseases, diabetes and oral health problems.

Speaking to The Goan about the project, Monica Lakhanpaul who heads the program said the aim was to influence the feeding habits of children between the age group of two months to two years. Lakhanpaul is the Programme Director at UCL Partners Academic Health Science Network (AHSN), Integrated Children and Young People’s Programme and a practicing consultant Pediatrician.

“There is a high risk in the Asian community of diabetes and obesity. We wanted to influence feeding practices early on in the child’s life and give them healthy options. Feeding practices is not only about what you give, but also how and why you give the food,” she said.

England, she said was in need of innovative ways for to change and a means of engaging with community. “In India, there are many women’s groups that have succeeded in reducing maternal and para natal mortality, then why not use the similar model in UK,” she said.

The aim is to find what issues are affecting the society and taking it back to them as a community to find a solution. “The focus is on community participation and through this they find a solution to their own problems rather than us telling them what to do. The way we’re adapting it is to see if it should be women’s groups only or grandmothers and mothers or mothers and fathers or family,” added Lakhanpaul.

But taking the idea isn’t a one way dealing; it involves a bi- directional exchange of knowledge. By taking India’s idea to UK, the project also aims to better improve India’s model.

The project’s initial study began two years ago with work beginning last year with interviews and initial model building processes. The project itself will be launched in September and will last till December this year. Lakhanpaul said the Somalia and South Asian community in UK have also shown interest in adapting the model for their communities.

Share this