Bringing people together to treat obesity

Dr Jennifer Logue is a FLIER Programme participant and Clinical Reader in Metabolic Medicine at Lancaster University who works on the treatment of obesity and related diseases.  

I’m a medic and I trained in Chemical Pathology and Metabolic Medicine, which includes running the hospital labs and providing interpretation on blood tests, as well as seeing patients with metabolic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. That’s quite a wide base to start with, and now I focus on obesity.

Obesity is a huge problem for our society and for our health, yet we have no real way of preventing it or treating. The treatments we do have are so severely rationed, in part because of the stigma attached to obesity.

It’s a disease that affects every facet of your life. It is incredibly visible, and it’s associated with large amounts of psychological distress. The treatments involve people having to make huge behavioural changes and battling against their own physiology.

I applied to the FLIER Programme because I wanted to develop my leadership skills and it has already changed the way I work. For instance, we took part in an Apprentice-style business simulation where I learnt things that you don’t really learn in medicine, like selling an idea or selling a vision. We’re taught about detail and being precise but when you’re managing, you can’t do all the details, you have to delegate.

In medicine we also have a hierarchical structure where you’re told what to do and you don’t question things above you. That’s changing but not fast enough.

FLIER is teaching us to be different types of leaders. It’s about focusing on a clear and transparent vision. It’s also about ensuring everyone working on a project knows why they are there and what their role is.

I have a research proposal that is under review about weight management on referral. We do have guidelines for what these programmes should look like, but they only cover limited elements that can’t easily be put together to make a whole programme.

It’s also complicated because some of these weight management services are run by the NHS, some are run by public health services and some are contracted to either third sector or commercial organisations. This cross-sectoral work sits very well with the FLIER Programme.

When it comes to working across sectors, it’s about give-and-take. For example, Weight Watchers is an international company, so why is it in their interest to have their data in my project? The answer is that it will result in more weight management that’s effective and funded in the UK.

I’ve already managed to get 30 different weight management services together from across commercial, local authority, NHS and third sector, and get agreement that everyone will share their outcome data. We’re also forming an advisory group from all different backgrounds, including patients, to help with the study. We’re going to bring all these data together to find out what works for who, where and when.

What continues to motivate me is my patients. I see their health problems and I know that if we could help with the underlying disease of obesity, these other problems would be far better, or if we can prevent obesity by altering the environment, then people wouldn’t be suffering.

Dr Jennifer Logue is a participant in Round 1 of the Academy of Medical Sciences’ FLIER Programme, a unique programme that will develop leaders of the future who can create collaborations across academia, industry, the NHS and government to drive innovation.

The FLIER Programme is generously supported by the Dennis and Mireille Gillings Foundation and the Government Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy ‘Investment in Research Talent’ fund. If you would like to support the work of the Academy to develop talented researchers, visit our Supporters page.

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