Fresh faces in CHErIsH!

Lots of changes and new updates for the CHErIsH study team over the last while! Our wonderful CHErIsH post-docs Dr Michelle Queally and Dr Karen Matvienko-Sikar have both taken up new positions and will continue to work on CHErIsH in an advisory capacity. Michelle has started a post-doctoral research position with CƚRAM, the Centre for Research in Medical Devices working on recruitment to clinical trials, while Karen will be starting her HRB Applying Research into Policy and Practice fellowship in January 2019! We wish them both the best of luck in their new endeavours and will be looking forward to hearing their updates!
Coming onto the CHErIsH team, we are delighted to welcome Dr Kate O’Neill and Dr Caragh Flannery! Kate has a background in Public Health and Health Promotion, Epidemiology and Health Economics, and will join us to work with Michelle on our health economics evaluation. Kate recently passed her viva under the supervision of Prof Patricia Kearney and Dr Sheena McHugh in UCC. Kate’s PhD, which focused on the cost of diabetes in Ireland in 2013. Caragh recently passed her viva under the supervision of Prof Molly Byrne in NUI Galway. Caragh was part of the HRB SPHeRE PhD programme in Population Health and Health Service Research and her PhD focused on health behaviour change in the area of pregnancy and gestational diabetes.
We are so thrilled to have such a growing team with fantastic expertise. CHErIsH is currently in the third phase of development and will be starting to explore the feasibility of the intervention with our partners in the Mallow Primary Healthcare Centre in the upcoming months. Watch this space for more project updates coming soon! šŸ™‚

CHErIsH researcher delivers webinar for Primary Care Trials Network Ireland


Dr Elaine Toomey delivered the first webinar of the Autumn 2018 series for the Primary Care Trials Network Ireland (PCTNI).Ā TheĀ HRB Primary Care Clinical Trials Network IrelandĀ is a collaborative partnership that brings together key people in Ireland to run clinical trials in primary care, that is, through general practices or primary care centres and in the community. Dr Toomey gave a webinar on the current progress of the CHErIsH study entitled ā€œThe Choosing Healthy Eating for Infant Health (CHErIsH) Studyā€œ. The talk focused on childhood obesity in Ireland, the role of infant feeding behaviours in childhood obesity,Ā current infant feeding best practice recommendations and guidance, and an update on the Choosing Healthy Eating for Infant study and how primary care practitioners can get involved.

To watch the webinar, click here!Ā Image 2

Research snapshot of review of fidelity of infant feeding interventions

Our review of fidelity of trials of infant feeding interventions was published in February in Annals of Behavioral Medicine – available here.

Our study found that the moderate use and/or reporting of strategies to improve and assess fidelity within trials of infant feeding interventions suggests that previous findings of inconsistent effectiveness may not fully reflect the intended interventions.

This research snapshot was created by Rebekah Roy, a HRB Trials Methodology Research Network summer student working with Dr Elaine Toomey over the summer, in an attempt to make our study more accessible and informative!

Research Snapshot_ 1 page A4research snapshot

CHErIsH at the Oireachtas

Dr Karen Matvienko-Sikar and Professor Patricia Kearney, on behalf of the CHErIsH study team, recently submitted to the Oireachtas the Joint Committee on Children and Youth Affairs, Tackling Childhood Obesity. The written submission outlined key and recommendations of the CHErIsH study to date and can be read here.


As a result of this submission, Dr Karen Matvienko-Sikar was invited to speak as part of the Committees ā€˜Tackling Childhood Obesityā€™ parliamentary discussions. The meeting was held in Leinster House on May 30th 2018 and was chaired by Alan Farrell (TD). The meeting was also attended by representatives of the Association of Teachers of Home Economics; the home economics department of St. Angela’s College in Sligo, and a second session included representatives of the No Fry Zone 4 Kids committee; the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute; and the school of education, childhood youth and sport, faculty of well-being, education and language studies of the Open University. A video of the Committee Meeting can be viewed here and the transcript of the meeting can be read here.


CHErIsH researcher wins award for obesity research

AMM-180125-7136CHErIsH post-doctoral researcher, Dr Elaine Toomey was recently awarded the ā€˜Irish Canadian University Foundation James M Flaherty Early Career Researcher Awardā€™. Dr Toomey received the award to conduct further research on the adaptation of ā€˜Football Fans in Trainingā€™ (FFIT), an effective health behaviour change intervention developed by Prof Kate Hunt, Prof Sally Wyke and Dr Cindy Gray that used Scottish professional football clubs to engage with overweight and obese men. The ā€˜Hockey Fitā€™ intervention was recently developed by Dr Rob Petrella and Dr Dawn Gill in Western University, Ontario to adapt the FFIT project to ice-hockey, within a Canadian context.

Elaineā€™s award will enable her to visit Western University and explore the Canadian ā€˜Hockey Fitā€™ intervention with a specific focus on how FFIT components were adapted to suit a different sporting and cultural context, and inform how this might be used in an Irish context. Dr Toomey will also spend time in the Centre for Implementation Research in the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute to maximise how knowledge from her visit to Western University can be used to inform adaptation and translation into an Irish setting, using a structured and theory-based approach.

Elaine was interviewed on Thursday 15th February about this award and also about the work of the CHErIsH study on the ā€˜Limerick Todayā€™ programme on Limerickā€™s Live 95fm. Radio host Joe Nash, was particularly interested in the work of the CHErIsH study into how infant feeding behaviours could be changed to prevent childhood obesity. Listen back to the interview podcast here!


CHErIsH at the European Childhood Obesity Group Annual Congress (ECOG)

Last November, CHErIsH post doc Michelle Queally recently presented CHErIsH research at the 2017 European Childhood Obesity Group Conference (ECOG) in the stunning city of Rome. Ā ECOG is a well-established group set up in 1991, describing itsā€™ mission as helping the European community to ā€œunderstand fully the health, social, psychological and economic impacts of childhood obesity, and work together to take this growing problem off the menu in Europeā€. Michelle presented the results of the CHErIsHā€™s Ā team Ā research which examined parental perceptions of their childā€™s weight in Ireland. Michelle spoke about how the findings indicated that mothers are unable to accurately identify their childā€™s overweight or obesity status at age 3 and age 5.

Although all of the presentations focused on issues in childhood obesity research, the range of topics was quite broad, covering prevention of childhood obesity, clinical aspects and origins, health behaviours and costs of childhood obesity. Ā Apart from getting the opportunity to enjoy an audience with the Pope along with casually walking past the Trevi Fountain every morning on route to the conference (!), my top three personal highlights from the conference were the presentations delivered by Francesco Branca, Amandine Garde and together Sarah Redsell and Jenny Rose. So, very briefly why were these my top 3 favs?!



Firstly, it was reassuring and encouraging to be reminded that our CHErIsH team research agenda on infant feeding practises in Ireland is very much the agenda at a global level – as reiterated by the none other than the Director of the Department of Nutrition for Health and Development in the World Health Organisation (WHO), Geneva; Francesco Branca. Namely, the mixed messages around infant feeding guidelines where Branca referred to these being ā€œa global jungleā€ and very confusing with ā€œno authoritative sourceā€. He noted that the whole issue of key messages around infant feeding practise is a critical one; what the key messages are and how we need to work on developing these as a scientific community. He also alluded to the self-experts on the web that are churning out misguided non-evidence based advice on infant feeding. Interestingly, he went on to suggest how we, the scientific community ought to try working better with the social media who are possibly best able to convene these messages. So, ladies and gentlemen that participated in our CHErIsH focus groups in Cork and Galway, itā€™s fair (and sad) to say that the sentiments and challenges that you spoke about regarding mixed infant feeding guidelines and sources are a global ā€œphenomenonā€. It is certainly encouraging that the WHO have highlighted this research area as critical. The picture on the below left shows UNICEF recommended practises for infant feeding.

An interesting message from Amandine Garde was that we ought to frame childhood obesity prevention as a childā€™s right- rather than as being a public health initiative. This opened up a huge debate in the audience. Her take home message was that parents are guardians of childrenā€™s health but that there is too much intervention – it should be the parentā€™s role to prevent the child from becoming obese/overweight. But, she also noted that parents need to be supported by the state and that the state has the responsibility to ensure that childrenā€™s environment is not obesogenic.

Sarah Redsell and Jenny Rose (pictured below) presented their project which assessed the feasibility and acceptability of using digital technology for assessing the risk of obesity during infancy. We know that interactive digital technology can support complex and sensitive discussions between health professionals and patients. This is such an important area of research as we also are aware of the sensitive nature of communicating that a child is overweight or obese. In very simple terms, their study used a tablet to input the childā€™s data (baby birth weight and length, current weight etc.) into a validated risk prediction tool (called ProAsk) which then calculated the infantā€™s risk of obesity. Interestingly they found this tool was acceptable to most parents, but intervention fidelity was low. Intervention fidelity refers to the degree to which theĀ interventionĀ is delivered as intended. So maybe more research needed here but definitely a promising area of research.


Overall, the ECOG meeting was enjoyable and intellectually stimulating. Ā If I had to find one minor ā€œfaultā€ with the conferenceā€¦it would be the food served up! A colleague of ours who also is involved in the CHErIsHĀ  projectā€“ Marita Hennessy springs to mind hereā€¦who is an advocate for healthy eating in the workplace, particularly at these type of meetings. Although it may have been a case of when in Romeā€¦literallyā€¦! But the teatime snacks provided included biscuits, crisps and peanuts and sugary pastries (no healthy options), with pasta and lots of non- healthy food for lunchā€¦hmmā€¦ This was in fact a discussion point in the networking sessions! As a self-confessed sugar addict, it suited me fine but I couldnā€™t help but think maybe itā€™s time we practised what we preachā€¦particularly at a European conference of childhood obesity. Overall though, a fantastic insight to all the multifaceted layers that exist regarding childhood obesity.

We need you! Get involved with CHErIsH!

Work has recently gotten underway on the next stage of our project, to get you, parents, mothers and fathers, aunts, uncles and grandparents of children involved with us in our research! We want to create an energetic partnership between you and Team CHErIsH so that the infant feeding insights, views and experiences of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles will guide the development of our research, influence the planning and delivery of infant feeding support services in ways that are accessible and meaningful to the public.

This is called PPI, or public and patient involvement, and tries to make sure our research is relevant and beneficial to patient and public needs. As such it is a really important part of our project. We have recently created a dedicated page to our PPI –Ā If you, or anyone you know, would like to help out (even in a small way) please get in touch using our contact page!


This part of our project is being led by CHErIsH researcherĀ Dr. Michelle Queally.

For more information on how to get involved please click the link to our PPI page: