COACH approach works
The approach used by the Centre for Overweight Adolescent and Children’s Healthcare (COACH) at Maastricht UMC+ to help children with overweight and obesity make changes in their lifestyle and thus improve their health appears to work. The risk factors for chronic diseases are drastically reduced and the vast majority of the children are able to improve their weight in the long term.
COACH was founded five years ago to actually do something for the many children and young adults in the Maastricht region with overweight or even obesity. The centre focuses on long-term guidance and customised care. Not only the children but also their families are guided step by step in making healthier choices for their daily lives. In the programme, COACH works with all kinds of partners in the region to explore activities that can create awareness and behavioural change. Enjoyment is paramount here, so children go outside the walls of the hospital to take part in exercise and sports programmes, cooking workshops and improvisational theatre to stimulate a healthy life. Despite all the fun activities, changing behaviour is not easy. Therefore the COACH team offers pedagogical and psychological guidance. The programme’s participants regularly return to the outpatient clinic for this guidance.
In the meantime, the first results of the COACH programme have been scientifically evaluated. Based on the figures, it can be concluded that the programme has a positive effect on health. Almost 70 percent of the participants have improved their weight. Even more importantly, these children, with guidance from COACH, are succeeding at living more healthily long term. It is striking that children with very serious overweight are just as successful in the COACH programme as children with less serious forms of overweight. That is a breakthrough, because it is often thought that only an operation or long-term hospitalisation can help these children. All this is clear from the research conducted by Jesse Rijks, who hopes to be awarded his PhD with this research on 15 December.
On Thursday, 17 November, COACH will celebrate its fifth anniversary. That date also marks the occasion when the new premises in the MECC will come into use. On commission from and in collaboration with COACH, Tinker imagineers from Utrecht have designed a playful and interactive world that gives participants a subtle push towards a healthy life. This environment is far removed from the world of the hospital, but gives the children the guidance and care they need.