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POWeR - cost effective online support for weight management

A multidisciplinary team at the University of Southampton have developed ‘POWeR’ – Positive Online Weight Reduction – a self-guided digital intervention to initiate and sustain weight loss and physical activity. Research shows that POWeR has helped users lose enough weight to significantly reduce their risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and that it costs less than standard NHS care.


POWEr logo

The obesity epidemic is a major health threat, being a significant cause of serious illness and disability, and the leading cause of preventable early death. Over one in four UK adults are obese and the annual cost of obesity to the NHS exceeds £6 billion a year.

However, NHS staff do not have the resources to support long-term weight loss programmes. To address this, Professor Paul Little and colleagues led the development and trialling of the ‘POWeR’ (Positive Online Weight Reduction) intervention to help users sustain weight loss.

Research challenge

Since 2010, Professors Paul Little, Mike Moore and James Raftery have worked with Professor Lucy Yardley and colleagues from the School of Psychology to develop and trial ‘POWeR’ – Positive Online Weight Reduction – a self-guided digital intervention to initiate and sustain weight loss and physical activity with only limited support from nurses.

Clinical trials showed that POWeR helped people sustain weight loss for a year and cost less than standard NHS care.

Dissemination, implementation and benefit of POWeR

POWEr screen

Funded by two rounds of ESRC Impact Acceleration funding (2015-2019), POWeR was publicised through meetings with Public Health England and the Department of Health, and through presentations at relevant public health conferences.

As a result of the interest generated, contract negotiations were completed to provide POWeR to communities through local authorities and the NHS.

In 2017 Hampshire County Council signed a three-year contract to make POWeR available to 2 million people in the community.

In 2018, Solent NHS trust signed a three-year contract to make POWeR available to over 235,000 people through primary care, while Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council signed a three-year contract to make POWeR available to over 100,000 people.

Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council highly value the impact POWeR brought to their community: “Our work with Professor Yardley’s team has brought huge benefits to Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council and beyond. We have been able to offer our residents and others outside our borough, an effective online programme for weight loss, which has been an extremely valuable and cost-effective addition to our services.”

The POWeR responsive web app

In order to put in place a sustainable basis for longer-term future implementation of POWeR, in 2018 an Innovate UK grant was secured with Changing Health, a company providing digital interventions for diabetes management to the NHS. POWeR was thus converted into a web app suitable for sustained dissemination throughout the UK and internationally.

In 2019, the app was delivered to 600 patients managing diabetes through the Manchester Diabetes Test Bed. From 2019-2020, it was delivered to 300 people in the Netherlands through a weight management pilot programme with a European health insurer.

Through competitive tendering, Changing Health won contracts to deliver POWeR to 4,000 patients through ‘Healthier You’, the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme, which is a joint commitment from NHS England, Public Health England and Diabetes UK.

Over 2020-2025, POWeR will be delivered to another 12,000 patients through the Healthier You programme, and Changing Health will roll-out POWeR across the NHS to 600,000 patients as part of the National Diabetes Education Programme with NHS England. This programme provides education resources for a wide range of individuals and groups, including hard-to-reach populations.

Key Publications

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