Innovations in Mental Health – Tech weekly Podcast

Nathalie Nahai and Simon Barnard. The Guardian: Friday 29th January 2016

From Fitbits that monitor the sleep patterns of patients with schizophrenia and apps that help you manage your mood to online therapy sessions, tech is increasingly being seen as a viable alternative to traditional health and wellbeing techniques.

But is it too good to be true? What are the benefits, and what are the risks?

Nathalie Nahai is joined to discuss by psychotherapist Gillian Isaacs Russell, author of new book Screen Relations: The Limits of Computer-Mediated Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy; Dr Richard Dobson from the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre for Mental Health and the Farr Institute of Health Informatics Research; psychologist and author Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic; and the Guardian tech team’s Hannah Jane-Parkinson.


Making every contact count

Making Every Contact Count (MECC) is an approach to behaviour change that utilises day to day interactions that organisations and individuals have with other people to support them in making positive changes to their physical and mental health and wellbeing. MECC enables the opportunistic delivery of consistent and concise healthy lifestyle information and enables individuals to engage in conversations about their health at scale across organisations and populations.

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These practical resources will support people and organisations when considering or reviewing MECC activity and aid local implementation. They were developed by Public Health England (PHE), Health Education England and the national MECC advisory group.

Childhood obesity

The Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO) has presented its final report to the WHO Director-General, culminating a two-year process to address the levels of childhood obesity and overweight globally.

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The report Ending Childhood Obesity proposes a range of recommendations for governments aimed at reversing the rising trend of children aged under 5 years becoming overweight and obese.


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The 6 main recommendations for governments are:

  • Promote intake of healthy foods

  • Promote physical activity

  • Preconception and pregnancy care

  • Early childhood diet and physical activity

  • Health, nutrition and physical activity for school-age children

  • Weight management

Computer-based cognitive interventions for people living with dementia: a systematic literature review and meta-analysis

García-Casal, J. A. et al. Aging & Mental Health. Published online: 25th Jan 2016

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Image source: Mattias
Objectives: To estimate the efficacy of computer-based cognitive interventions for improving cognition in people with dementia (PWD).
Method: Online literature databases were searched for relevant studies. Interventions were categorised as follows: cognitive recreation, cognitive rehabilitation, cognitive stimulation or cognitive training. A systematic review, quality assessment and meta-analyses were conducted.
Results: Twelve studies were identified. Their methodological quality was acceptable according to Downs & Black criteria, the weakest methodological area being the external validity. The meta-analyses indicated cognitive interventions lead to beneficial effects on cognition in PWD (SMD −0.69; 95% CI = −1.02 to −0.37; P < 0.0001; I2 = 29%), depression (SMD 0.74; 95% CI = 0.31 to 1.17; P = 0.0008; I2 = 41%) and anxiety (SMD 0.55; 95% CI = 0.07 to 1.04;P < 0.03; I2 = 42%). They benefited significantly more from the computer-based cognitive interventions than from the non-computer-based interventions in cognition (SMD 0.48; 95% CI = 0.09 to 0.87; P = 0.02; I2 = 2%) and depression (SMD 0.96; 95% CI = 0.25 to 1.66; P = 0.008; I2 = 54%).
Conclusion: Computer-based cognitive interventions have moderate effects in cognition, depression and anxiety in PWD. No significant effects were found on activities of daily living. They led to superior results compared to non-computer-based interventions in cognition and depression. Further research is needed on cognitive recreation and cognitive stimulation. There is also a need for longer-term follow-up to examine the potential retention of treatment effects, and for the design of specific outcome measures.
Read the abstract here

Evidence base for the prevention and management of child obesity

Child & Maternal Health News

Robertson, W. et al. Paediatrics and Child Health. Available online: 26th January 2016


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Obesity in childhood is a public health priority. The prevalence of overweight and obesity in children has increased since the mid 1990s, although prevalence is now stabilising. The National Child Measurement Programme shows that a third of 10–11 year olds in England are currently overweight or obese. Obesity increases the risk of poor physical health and mental health in childhood, and children who are obese are more likely to be obese in adulthood.

Four tiers of services are recommended in the care pathway: universal prevention services; lifestyle weight management services often run in the community; specialist support from a clinical team; and surgery (in exceptional circumstances to over 12s). The current evidence on prevention indicates that interventions targeting schools and the home are promising, and reducing free sugar intake and sugar sweetened drinks is…

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Reading Between the Lines: Results of a tobacco survey

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) has published a report ‘Reading Between the Lines: Results of a survey of tobacco control leads in local authorities in England’.

Tobacco control experts from 126 local authorities across England have been asked about their stop smoking services, their budgets and how well their services were integrating since moving to local government in 2013.

This report finds that in two out of five areas funding is being cut back. In addition half of all services are being reconfigured or recommissioned indicating a high level of change across the country.

The authors suggest that most local councils take their responsibility to reduce smoking very seriously, but they are facing enormous funding pressures. They propose that national action is needed now to ensure that local authorities have the tools and the funding to do everything they can to reduce smoking rates.

Read the report here
Read the Cancer Research UK press release here


Tackling the challenge of obesity from policy to individualised approaches

Royal Society of Medicine. Published: January 22nd 2016.

Professor John Wilding discusses a series of challenges and approaches to dealing with obesity in the UK. John provides insight into the psychological and biological causes of obesity, as well as the strain a high BMI puts on individual health and NHS costs. John also talks about the way obesity can be tackled through lifestyle management, interventions, surgery and pharmacotherapy.

This lecture was part of the ‘Cardiovascular disease prevention – a global approach to risk’ event at The Royal Society of Medicine in London.

To watch the full lecture please visit: