A new way of teaching people with learning disabilities about healthy eating was officially launched this week by Michael Matheson, Minister for Public Health.
The award winning Learning Disabililties Heathy Eating Pack is an exciting and innovative initiative which was developed to help support workers and others guide adults with varying ability levels through healthy eating education.
Thought to be the only one of its kind in Scotland, the pack won a Gold COSLA Excellence Award (Tackling Health Inequalities and Improving Health) in 2011.
There are 28 sessions of the course which takes participants through a range of educational techniques to improve their knowledge and understanding of how to make better dietary choices.
In addition, parents and carers are encouraged to provide support at home thus increasing their own knowledge of healthy eating.
Speaking at the launch in at St Andrew’s in the Square, Glasgow, Michael Matheson, Minister for Public Health, said: ““We want everyone in Scotland to understand the benefits of a healthy diet, yet we know that people with learning disabilities often have poorer health.
“That is why I welcome this creative new healthy eating pack, which has been designed specifically for people with learning disabilities to help them make better diet choices.”
Andrew Robertson, Chairman of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said: “There are many excellent healthy eating campaigns out there, but unfortunately none provided healthy living information in a way that was accessible to the majority of people with learning disabilities.
“Obesity is a major health problem for people with learning disabilities and, although both health and social care staff have in the past attempted to engage this client group in discussion about eating well, there was no systematic approach to this.
“With this in mind, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Glasgow City Council decided to develop a training programme which looked at how best to adapt Government health campaigns to better suit the needs of people with learning disabilities. We wanted to teach people with learning disabilties and their carers how to make healthy food choices and develop a sustainable way of providing them with a programme on healthy eating.
“A 28 week programme of structured activities was created which was taught by a multi-disciplinary team including carers, health staff and social work in day care settings.
“Over the past two years, we’ve been piloting the course with people with Learning Disabilities and have received excellent feedback by all those involved. At the end of their course, all participants showed improved knowledge of how to eat less fat and 60% of showed improved knowledge of fruit and vegetables.
“In addition, 12 service users also gained a Bronze Caledonian Award for their achievements in completing the programme.”
He added: “We’re delighted with the new pack and look forward to continuing to teach service users about healthy eating, helping them to make informed choices about what they eat so they can live long and healthier lives.”
Councillor Matt Kerr, Glasgow City Council’s Executive Member for Social Care, said: "We are delighted that we now have a fully developed healthy eating programme for people with learning disabilities.
"Diet has been identified as a big issue among service users but with their help we have been able to devise a course that will allow them to learn more about food and healthy eating.
"The new programme has a range of accessible materials and activities that are tailored towards the needs of service users that will encourage them to be more aware of what they eat.
"The new pack is a fantastic resources and we hope it will lead to people making better and healthier choices in their own lives."
So what does the programme include? It has seven sections targeting specific areas: sugar, salt, food labels, fruit and vegetables, fibre, food for healthy bones. Participants are taught to recognise foods containing these and which ones to choose for a healthy diet.
The weekly sessions are designed to be interactive as possible and participants enjoy:
• Locally developed PowerPoint presentations
• Visits to supermarkets and allotments
• A take home DVD featuring service users enjoying healthy foods – this can be watched at home with carers
• Talking mats – a communication tool that allows people with severe communication difficulties to express their views and feelings
• Learning how to cook healthy food
At the beginning and end of each course, participants are tested on their knowledge of healthy eating, as well as their mental health and wellbeing. Although not a weight reduction programme, their weight was also taken at the beginning and end to see if the course had made a difference.
The Healthy Eating Pack was designed to support this programme and although its main focus is healthy eating, it also includes additional health messages on exercising, stress and alcohol.
The pack and programme were developed with the input from people with learning disabilities, staff and carers.
Initial funding came from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, NHS Health Scotland and the Glasgow Learning Disability Partnership allowing two pilot programmes to be undertaken.
Further funding was secured from the Scottish Government Same As You Change Fund for a two year period from March 2011 to allow for six more pilots and evaluations to be carried out. It also allowed the packs to be upgraded and to develop the first ever food handling training course (REHIS) for carers of people with Learning Disabilities.
Assistance was also received from the Scottish Consortium of Learning Disabilities who took forward the design of materials and printing, plus developed the web version of the pack. They will also be pivotal in the national promotion of the pack.
Key achievements include:
• Excellent attendance from participants
• 60% of participants showing improved knowledge of fruit and vegetables
• 100% improving their knowledge of how to eat less fat
• Positive comments from carers and service users about the programme
• Service users demonstrating greater ability to make positive choices and gaining new skills in shopping and healthy food preparation
• 12 service users have achieved the Bronze Caledonian Award for their achievements in completing the programme.
For further infformation either telephone 0141 201 4429 or email [email protected]
NOTES TO EDITORS
The Healthy Eating Pack is available online: http://www.scld.org.uk/training-consultancy/training/resources/healthy-eating-healthy-living