Opening an interactive public engagement seminar on Nutrition & Health, the first in a new series organised by the National Forum for Health and Wellbeing (NFHW), Professor Lynne Livesey, Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN), highlighted the importance of involving the public to empower them to take control of their own health.

She welcomed the initiative taken by NFHW in association with the University, its Creative Communities Group (CCG) and School of Medicine. Dr Livesey said that the University is committed to social engagement and promised that UCLan would continue to support such initiatives.

Professor Romesh Gupta, OBE, Chair of NFHW, welcomed the attendees and chaired the event which was built around the four presentations outlined below.

In the first, Dr Pappachan Joseph, Consultant in metabolic medicine and endocrinologist, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (LTHTR), outlined how choices in diet and nutrition can contribute to a healthy life and wellbeing both now and as we get older. He briefly highlighted the importance of balanced diet with exercise and ended his talk with a short video about the ‘eat well’ campaign.

Dr Joseph was followed by Dr Ariharan Anantharachagan, Consultant clinical Immunologists, LTHTR, who spoke about how Immunoglobulin E food allergies can be identified and managed. He briefly touched on non-immunological food reactions and then went on to explain how food intolerance and food allergies differ.

Having discussed the aetiology of mediated food allergies, he explained how suspected allergens are tested with skin prick testing and how the problem can be managed. He ended the talk by briefly explaining that a peanut allergy drug has been approved by the US Federal Drugs Authority, but cautioned that those on oral immunotherapy, had a higher anaphylaxis risk, anaphylaxis frequency and adrenaline use

The third speaker, Dr Omolola Ayoola, Consultant paediatrician and endocrinologist, LTHTR, expertly addressed issues of the childhood obesity epidemic and strategies for tackling this. She highlighted the fact that childhood obesity has increased in school children in England and drew attention to the link between obesity and deprivation. She stressed the importance of family-based interventions and of physical activity. She emphasised that children should be allowed the freedom to carry on with the physical activity that they enjoy the most.

Finally, Dr Victoria Moran, Associate professor of maternal and child nutrition, UCLan, focused on maternal nutrition and lifestyle with reference to gestational diabetes. She explained the ideal diet of an expectant mother and stressed the problems associated with smoking as well as alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Dr Moran highlighted the fact that Britain is among the top five countries worldwide for mothers drinking during pregnancy (40% v 10% global average) and noted that Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is the most common non-genetic cause of learning disability in the UK which affects over 21,000 babies born each year.

After the presentations, attendees took the opportunity to join in what turned out to be lively and productive small groups to discuss their questions and concerns with the speakers.

In conclusion, Professor Gupta thanked the participants, speakers and the University for their wholehearted support for the event. In particular he expressed his warm appreciation for the assistance provided by Russel Hogarth, CCG Chair who, along with Nigel Farnworth, CCG manager, worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make the event a great success.

Dr Abhay Vaidya coordinated the event and facilitated group discussions.

Speaking of the event, Dr Livesey said, “This was an engaging and highly informative evening of lectures covering some of the most challenging issues for the public’s future health and wellbeing.  The presentations, combining up-to-date expert analysis evidenced by data and containing easily understandable advice, were perfect for the audience. Following the lectures the speakers continued their discussions with the public and fellow professionals, providing a great opportunity for the public to be able to speak directly with some of our top professionals in the field of nutrition and health.

Expressing his thoughts, Russell Hogarth of the Creative Communities Group said “I’m delighted with the success of our first public engagement seminar on nutrition and health. I would like to thank both the University and the School of Medicine for all the help and support in helping to make it a successful evening. The guest speakers were both engaging and informative. And a special thank you to the Creative Communities Group manager Nigel Farnworth and the CCG volunteers.”

This is what Bill Gormley M Sc.,FCIPD, FBIDA, Hon Fellow NFH&WB had to say about the event: “Dear Professor Gupta, Thank you for your invitation to the above seminar which I found to be well received by those I worked with during the evening. The seminar covered serious health issues faced by vulnerable diverse groups but was also valuable in the way the precautionary steps and necessary actions were highlighted. I do hope that it is possible to circulate the presenters’ slides to a wider audience to enable access for the groups highlighted during the presentation. The presenters should be proud of their efforts during the evening as the group discussions, which followed, highlighted the further steps to be taken to improve nutrition and health for children, maternal patients and adult patients generally.

This event was held in the Greenbank Lecture Hall, UCLan on Thursday 20th February 2020 between 4:30 and 6:30 pm.

The PowerPoint presentations used by the speakers can be accessed from the following link.