New study to explore an intervention to help reduce weight in people with schizophrenia

• Schizophrenia patients three times more likely to be overweight or obese
• People with serve mental illness die 10-20 years earlier

Researchers from the University of Sheffield are to investigate whether people with schizophrenia or first episode psychosis are able to reduce their weight through a structured education programme.

Helping people with schizophrenia loss weightThe project is led by Professor Richard Holt at the University of Southampton , in collaboration with researchers from the School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) at the University of Sheffield and co-investigators including University of Leicester and University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust.

People with schizophrenia are two to three times more likely to be overweight or obese. As well as a range of adverse physical health consequences, such as diabetes and heart disease, weight gain may be an important factor that stops people taking their antipsychotic medication which increases the risks of relapse and worse mental health.

However, following a set programme aimed at educating sufferers about the importance of diet change and manipulating exercise habits could reduce their weight and improve their quality of life.
"We know people with severe mental illness die 10-20 years earlier than the general population," said Professor Holt.

"The commonest cause is from heart disease and being overweight or obese increases this risk. We want to develop a programme for use in the NHS that will help people with schizophrenia address the problem of obesity."

The research, funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment (NIHR HTA) Programme, will develop an educational approach, originally designed by the University of Leicester DESMOND (diabetes education and self-management for ongoing and newly diagnosed) team, to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, for people with schizophrenia.

This will be examined in a randomised controlled STEPWISE (Structured lifestyle Education for People With SchizophrEnia) trial and compared to usual health and social care. Researchers will test the intervention with a group of Sheffield patients before the trial begins.

The programme will include four weekly sessions with clinicians and follow up sessions after three, six and nine months all focusing on diet and exercise.

The study, which is sponsored by Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust, will start recruiting participants from participating NHS Mental Health Trusts in October 2014.

Dr David Shiers is a GP and collaborator on the project who is also a carer of his daughter with schizophrenia.
He said: “Given how weight gain can damage long term physical health as well as increase stigma it is incumbent on clinicians to seek more effective ways to offset such a serious adverse effect of the antipsychotic medication they prescribe”.

For further information about the study visit http://www.shef.ac.uk/scharr/sections/dts/ctru/stepwise

Additional information

1. The National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment (NIHR HTA) Programme funds research about the effectiveness, costs, and broader impact of health technologies for those who use, manage and provide care in the NHS. It is the largest NIHR programme and publishes the results of its research in the Health Technology Assessment journal, with over 600 issues published to date.

The journal’s 2011 Impact Factor (4.255) ranked it in the top 10% of medical and health-related journals. All issues are available for download, free of charge, from the website. The HTA Programme is funded by the NIHR, with contributions from the CSO in Scotland, NISCHR in Wales, and the HSC R&D Division, Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland. www.hta.ac.uk

2. The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded by the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy, and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research. The NIHR plays a key role in the Government’s strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world. For further information, visit the NIHR website www.nihr.ac.uk .

3. This article presents independent research funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health.

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For further information please contact:

Amy Pullan
Media Relations Officer
University of Sheffield
0114 222 9859
a.l.pullan@sheffield.ac.uk