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). The HRB Primary Care Clinical Trials Network Ireland 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 “The Choosing Healthy Eating for Infant Health (CHErIsH) Study“. The talk focused on childhood obesity in Ireland, the role of infant feeding behaviours in childhood obesity, 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 hereImage 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 ‘Tackling Childhood Obesity’ 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 ‘Irish Canadian University Foundation James M Flaherty Early Career Researcher Award’. Dr Toomey received the award to conduct further research on the adaptation of ‘Football Fans in Training’ (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 ‘Hockey Fit’ 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.

Elaine’s award will enable her to visit Western University and explore the Canadian ‘Hockey Fit’ 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 ‘Limerick Today’ programme on Limerick’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.  ECOG is a well-established group set up in 1991, describing its’ mission as helping the European community to “understand fully the health, social, psychological and economic impacts of childhood obesity, and work together to take this growing problem off the menu in Europe”. Michelle presented the results of the CHErIsH’s  team  research which examined parental perceptions of their child’s weight in Ireland. Michelle spoke about how the findings indicated that mothers are unable to accurately identify their child’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.  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 “a global jungle” and very confusing with “no authoritative source”. 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, it’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 “phenomenon”. 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 child’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 children’s health but that there is too much intervention – it should be the parent’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 children’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 child’s data (baby birth weight and length, current weight etc.) into a validated risk prediction tool (called ProAsk) which then calculated the infant’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 the intervention 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.  If I had to find one minor “fault” with the conference…it would be the food served up! A colleague of ours who also is involved in the CHErIsH  project– Marita Hennessy springs to mind here…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 Rome…literally…! 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 lunch…hmm… This was in fact a discussion point in the networking sessions! As a self-confessed sugar addict, it suited me fine but I couldn’t help but think maybe it’s time we practised what we preach…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 – 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 researcher Dr. Michelle Queally.

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

CHErIsH at European Health Psychology Society conference 2017

CHErIsH post doc Karen Matvienko-Sikar recently presented CHErIsH research at the 2017 European Health Psychology Society Conference in Italy. The conference took place from August 29th to September 2nd in the beautiful city of Padova. Karen presented the overall CHErIsH project in the first poster session on Tuesday 29th, to much interest and discussion.

posterKaren Matvienko-Sikar (left) & Elaine Toomey (right)

On Saturday September 2nd, Karen presented the results of her qualitative evidence synthesis on parental experiences and perceptions of infant complementary feeding.


This work was presented as part of a symposium titled: Maximising the value of qualitative methods in the development and evaluation of behavior change interventions. The symposium was chaired by fellow CHErIsH post doc Elaine Toomey and CHErIsH collaborator Dr Jenny McSharry. Dr McSharry, Dr Molly Byrne, and Marita Hennessy, who are all involved in the CHErIsH project also presented and facilitated activities on the day.

symposiumL-R: Dr Annegret Schneider, Prof Val Morrison, Dr Karen Matvienko-Sikar, Dr Molly Byrne, Dr Jenny McSharry, Marita Hennessy