A study has been launched to test whether technology developed to win races on the Formula 1 track could help to tackle the problem of obesity. This unique healthcare collaboration between McLaren Applied Technologies (MAT), Stowhealth (a GP surgery based in Stowmarket) and academics at University Campus Suffolk is being funded by healthcare provider Simplyhealth.
Telemetry technology, which is inspired by equipment used to collect data about the on-track performance of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Formula 1 cars, has been developed to monitor the activity levels of obese individuals in an innovative year-long research study.
The Helping Health Change study, which highlights the role technology can play in supporting healthy futures, aims to educate individuals about the relationship between the energy in their food versus the energy that their body burns through physical activity. This is intended to help them make healthier lifestyle choices, thus preventing long-term health issues from developing.
This cutting-edge weight management programme, supported by insurer Simplyhealth, aims to recruit 90 patients within Stowhealth medical practice. A sample of individuals will be given an MAT device that will monitor their physical movements and calories burnt. During the research programme participants will receive exercise advice and help with healthy eating habits. Their progress will be analysed by researchers at University Campus Suffolk.
The project is also intended to demonstrate that a partnership of diverse organisations with fresh perspectives on healthcare challenges can help to address significant issues, hopefully inspiring the formation of further innovative projects in future.
Simon Rudland, a GP at Stowhealth who championed the research project said: “Obesity is a problem that affects roughly a quarter of adults in the UK – and evidence suggests that these numbers are rising. Our hope is that Helping Health Change study funded by Simplyhealth will help shape the way we empower the vast number of individuals with weight-related conditions to make informed decisions based on accurate, factual evidence. The long-term aim is for this programme to inform the healthcare industry and demonstrate what can be achieved by bringing together diverse groups with different expertise and perspectives to address significant health issues.”
Geoff McGrath, Managing Director of McLaren Applied Technologies said: “How we manage the health and performance of a racing car, week in week out, and what doctors are looking to achieve in the monitoring of patients, is not that different.
“We develop systems that collect, transmit and manage vast amounts of data per race to better understand how the car is performing and diagnose any changes that need to be made. We are applying the same approach to this study, but in this instance to help provide an accurate and well-informed picture of an individual’s energy usage. The key thing here is making the collected data useful and interpretable for GPs, so that they can provide tailored advice to their patients.
“Though this joint research project is relatively small-scale at present, it demonstrates how health groups and technology companies can work together to tackle health problems in the future, and we hope that this is the first of many such collaborations.”
Professor Brendon Noble, Head of School of Science, Technology and Health at University Campus Suffolk said: “These are the first steps in a revolution in healthcare technologies and we are delighted that our experts are helping to drive this forward. Here in Suffolk we are contributing to the NHS’s aim that innovation is at the core of the healthcare offer to patients.”
Romana Abdin, Simplyhealth’s CEO said: “We’re very pleased to have played a role in helping bring together this unique partnership and opportunity to the fore. As obesity continues to pose as a barrier to good health and the future health of many individuals in the UK, now is absolutely the right time to explore how technology can support weight loss. At Simplyhealth we want to inspire people to better health and this project seeks to do that by explaining the relationship between food and physical activity through facts and not just estimates. We look forward to seeing the outcomes of the pilot and how it informs research in this area.”