Healthy Weight Services in England before, during and after pregnancy: a mixed methods approach
Background: Maternal overweight and obesity are associated with numerous adverse outcomes including higher rates of maternal and infant mortality and morbidity. Overweight and obesity before, during and after pregnancy are therefore a significant public health priority in England. This project explored and mapped healthy weight service availability at different stages of the childbearing cycle.Methods: A mixed methods approach included a questionnaire-based survey disseminated through Local
... d through Local Maternity Systems and semi-structured interviews or focus groups with providers and commissioners. Current maternal weight service provision was explored along with some of the barriers and facilitators for providing, delivering and accessing healthy weight services. Descriptive statistics were reported for quantitative data and content analysis was used for thematic reporting of qualitative data. Results: A total of 88 participants responded to the survey. All services were offered most frequently during pregnancy; with healthy eating and/or weight management services offered more often than physical activity services. Few services were targeted specifically at women with a raised body mass index. There was a high degree of inconsistency of service provision in different geographical areas. Several themes were identified from qualitative data including "equity and variation in service provision", "need for rigorous evaluation", "facilitators" to encourage better access or more effective service provision, including prioritisation, a change in focus and co-design of services, "barriers" encountered including financial and time obstacles, poor communication and insufficiently clear strategic national guidance and "the need for additional support".Conclusions: There is a need to reduce geographical variation in services and the potential health inequalities that this may cause. Improving services for women with a raised body mass index as well as services which encourage physical activity require additional emphasis. There is a need for more robust evaluation of services to ensure they are fit for purpose. An urgent need for clear national guidance so that healthcare providers can more effectively assist mothers achieve a healthy weight gain was identified. Commissioners should consider implementing strategies to reduce the barriers of access identified such as childcare, transport, location and making services free at the point of use.