Evaluating a public health rollout of a digital weight management programme


Digital interventions can be a cost-effective way of supporting people to lose weight and improve their health.   My colleagues at the University of Southampton created an intervention called POWeR (Positive Online Weight Reduction). POWeR provides psychology-informed tools to help people make and sustain changes to their diet and physical activity. POWeR proved effective in a Randomised Controlled Trial and a public health team were keen for it to be made available within their local area.

My work

I planned a roll out of POWeR across the North East of the UK.  To see if it would enhance outcomes, I designed a brief supportive coaching programme to be combined with POWeR, then trained people to deliver the coaching by telephone.

Together with public health collaborators I developed letters for targeted mailouts, advertisements in the local press, and posts for websites and social media.  We rapidly enrolled 786 people into a community trial.   We found that coaching was a useful addition to the online intervention, keeping people using the intervention for longer and meaning they tended to report a little more weight loss.   I conducted in-depth interviews with a selection of participants which then allowed me to tease apart how, when and for whom, coaching was most useful and why uptake was lower than anticipated.

Working with the same Public Health team we later rolled out POWeR in a range of public and private sector organisations part of a workplace healthy employers scheme. More recently, POWeR has been modified for use in various disease self-management programmes (e.g. diabetes, hypertension, asthma) and is now being rolled out within the NHS by a commercial partner.

POWeR was appraised as having ‘outstanding reach and significance’ in the University sector’s Research Excellence Framework 2021 Impact exercise.



Key Collaborators

Scott Lloyd1
Dr Leanne Morrison3
Dawn Phillips2
Dr Beth Stuart3
Prof Paul Roderick3
Dr Katherine Bradbury 3
Dr Sarah Williams
Prof Lucy Yardley3
Prof Susan Michie5
Prof Elizabeth Murray5
Prof Paul Little3

  1. Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council
  2. Durham County Council
  3. University of Southampton
  4. Bournemouth University
  5. University College London

Related reports

Does Brief Telephone Support Improve Engagement with a Web-Based Weight Management Intervention? Randomized Controlled Trial

Using mixed methods to develop and evaluate an online weight management intervention

Understanding usage of a hybrid website and smartphone app for weight management: A mixed methods study

POWeR REF Impact Case Study

Posted in Project.