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HENRY is a national training organisation that promotes a healthy lifestyle and supports obesity prevention in families with babies and young children.

Henry in Surrey

HENRY is a national training organisation that promotes a healthy lifestyle and supports obesity prevention in families with babies and young children. It has been introduced to Surrey as a result of a partnership with a local charity, Surrey Nurturing Links, that works closely with their PCT and Local Authority. One advantage of this is that the charity specialises in parenting education, and its senior staff have wide experience in supporting parents by training group facilitators to run groups through local Sure Start Children's Centres. The result is a project that even in its pilot phase is extremely well managed, giving the best chance of success for a growing reputation and sustainability in the longer term.


Despite its reputation for affluence, Surrey has pockets of deprivation and obesity is a major public health concern in the county, as elsewhere. As far as child obesity is concerned, national data show substantial differences in the prevalence of child obesity by ethnic group, especially in Year 6; the highest rates are found in non-White British ethnic groups. The Surrey PCT Childhood Obesity Needs Assessment (2008) identified the need to invest in prevention with a particular focus on the 0-5 age group in order to achieve the targets set out in the Local Area Agreement, the Surrey Obesity Strategy and Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives. As a result, the Surrey Children and Young People's Plan for 2009-10 set a target of training at least 20 NHS and Children's Centre staff, with a view to their delivering the Let's Get Healthy with HENRY course to some 100 families in areas of highest need.

HENRY in Surrey

The HENRY in Surrey project is being co-ordinated by Julie Kenward, a registered dietitian employed by Surrey Family Links. Julie has a background in weight management, and has worked in parenting education and support for the past 5 years. HENRY combines her two areas of expertise. She says:

I am particularly excited about introducing HENRY in Surrey, as I believe that an understanding of the broader issues of the parent-child relationship is fundamental to working effectively with families to prevent childhood obesity. The HENRY training prompted me to reflect on my previous practice as a dietitian, and to embrace a more strengths-focused, sensitive approach to working with parents in relation to encouraging healthy lifestyles. I feel more confident to work in a more family-centred way, moving away from the expert model I was accustomed to.

For the training, staff were recruited both from Sure Start Children's Centres and from Surrey Community Health Services. The huge response from staff for places on both the HENRY Core Training and Group Facilitation Training courses reflects their enthusiasm for working in partnership to support families. Meetings were held with prospective trainees and with their line managers to ensure their suitability for the work and a full understanding of the commitment and time required to embark on the initiative. The result has been trainees of high calibre, and from the outset advance attention being given to setting up and running the courses - something that does not always happen elsewhere.

In addition to the 22 staff undertaking the full training, a further 8 staff (2 from Health, 6 working in Children's Centres) have received the HENRY Core Training, and 40 e-course licences have been made available to other staff in the Children's Centres where Let's Get Healthy with HENRY courses will run, with a view to improving consistency of approach and supporting the recruitment of parents to groups.

Practitioners often highlight elements of the HENRY Core Training that prove particularly relevant to their work. Elizabeth is a Children's Centre Outreach Worker who visits families at home to offer support to parents. One family of concern has been a mother with two young daughters (17 months and 7 months); when Elizabeth started working with them, the father was on remand in prison. It took time to build a good relationship with this troubled family, and even then the mother sometimes became overwhelmed by her problems and ceased contact. Elizabeth began to use a key element included in HENRY: a strengths-based approach to helping, in which the parent's own ideas are paramount, rather than those of the professionals. Working in what became more of a partnership, Elizabeth helped this mother break down her many difficulties into manageable chunks, identify and achieve some small goals to take steps forward. In addition to help with housing, finances and family health, this has gradually led to the mother feeling more able to take responsibility for solving some of her problems for herself. This progress has helped both the mother and the practitioner to feel more confident in their skills.

Let's Get Healthy with HENRY

The pilot phase of the HENRY in Surrey initiative has focused principally on the Let's Get Healthy with HENRY course. The first one has been held in Woking Children's Centre, which is situated in a deprived area where obesity at Year 6 is 16% (NCMP 2007/8). It offers full Nursery provision, a base for a childminder network, access to health information and support (e.g. breastfeeding, well baby health clinics, nutrition and smoking cessation), language courses and many other services for the community. The Centre Manager, Sandra Scott, has provided a welcoming venue for the HENRY training courses as well as hosting the HENRY course for parents, which is being run by Julie Kenward and Zeenat Siddiq, an Outreach Worker based at the Centre.

Zeenat recruited 7 parents opportunistically from the Play and Learn sessions and Baby Clinics run at the Children's Centre. The group reflected the diversity of the local population in Woking: 4 parents are Asian, and 3 White British. One parent, a single mother of a 2-year-old boy, and with a very troubled background, also had quite poor literacy skills that contributed to her general lack of self-confidence. At the start of the course she needed a lot of support.

One effect of the weekly sessions on this parent was the way her confidence blossomed: on Week Five of the eight-week course she volunteered to write on the flipchart herself, with other parents spelling words for her. Her sense of pride in seeing her writing on display was tangible, and a wonderful example of the indirect learning that takes place. This is not only an end in itself for troubled parents; in addition, the increased self-esteem makes it easier for them to learn about a healthy lifestyle and begin to make changes in family life. She was fully aware of the impact the course was having on her, and reflected:

"I love coming to HENRY; I've got so much more confidence, and now I want to come to another course."

All parents in the group reported changes in their family's lifestyle as a result of the weekly sessions.


These included:

  • buying healthier snacks for the family
  • trying new foods in a variety of different ways
  • being more organised: planning meals, writing shopping lists
  • using less oil in cooking/using alternative cooking methods
  • improving boundaries and the choices they gave their children
  • taking time for themselves to "recharge their batteries"

In the first session, parents are encouraged to think about what would help them make changes, and all agreed that involving the whole family was important for changes to be successful and sustainable. One parent demonstrated this by creating a collage of foods in the four main food groups with her 4-year-old daughter: they cut out foods from pictures in magazines, and enjoyed spending time together while learning about healthy eating.

The contributions made by each parent, and their willingness to share ideas and support one another, has been inspiring; they are planning to continue to meet once the course has finished. Julie and Zeenat are looking forward to facilitating their next group. HENRY is advertised to all local GP surgeries, Home-School Link Workers, health visiting teams, midwives, dietitians and other Sure Start Children's Centres. The parents themselves are also spreading the word, with the result that there is already a waiting list of 13 parents wanting to attend future courses at Woking Children's Centre.

The other Let's Get Healthy with HENRY course being run in the spring was held at Buckland Children's Centre, and run by Julia (Community Nursery Nurse) and Christine (the Children's Centre Manager). Julia is particularly glad about the changes made by one of the mothers who attended. She has three children, then aged 10 months, 4 years and 6 years. The older child was overweight and was already being teased about this at school. She too started offering a greater variety of foods to the family, and introduced walks after school to increase the amount of physical activity the family takes. The positive emotional impact on her of coming to the course has been appreciated by her children, one of whom said: I'm happy and I want to pray to God to say thank you for Mummy going to HENRY.

Contact details:  Julie Kenward. Surrey Nurturing Links Projects Co-ordinator (HENRY in Surrey & Breastfeeding Peer Support NW Surrey) 
01483 225596 / 07850 708069

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Lead Organisation DH
Geographical Area  
Beneficiary Age  
Beneficiary Groups  
Type of activity Weight management for overweight and obese children
Primary Theme Healthy Weight
Secondary Themes Eating for Health



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