Walsall Teaching primary care trust was one of the first organisations to deploy health trainers to give one-to-one support to people with health problems.

Many of the initiative's clients had not been reached by other services and welcomed the opportunity to receive personal support and help in navigating the complex array of services on offer.

Over 90 per cent of referrals to the health trainer service, including self-referrals, were weight related.

Weight management is a complex issue and it is crucial to offer people services that meet their particular needs and to give them motivation and support.

The trust realised that there were not sufficient services to meet this demand.

It was also clear that although there had been some advertising of health trainers and the service was well used, it could potentially reach many more people.

Increasing choice

The trust commissioned additional services for people with weight management problems. An enhanced service was set up with GPs and pharmacists to deliver brief interventions and a 12-week individualised programme.

The trust also commissioned Slimming World and WeightWatchers to deliver individual support, as well as commissioning a web-based weight management service, Nutracheck, to provide free service on referral. These are all in addition to existing offerings, such as dieticians.

With the services in place, the Weight's Over campaign was launched. Bus advertising, the local press, direct mail and the SMS texting service the trust pioneered two years ago were all used to highlight the new services.

The response was huge. The hotline received 3,000 calls in the first month and 1,000 people have made individual plans with health trainers.

Assessing results

The campaign is now being evaluated. For instance, we know that we have issued 271 vouchers to Slimming World, entitling holders to a time-limited course of support. We also know that so far there has been a total weight loss of 622 kg among people taking up these referrals, although not all have completed their course.

We have also found, as ever, that men are not identifying themselves as having a need or being attracted to the range of services currently on offer. The Weight's Over team have been working with and talking to men in pubs, DIY stores and other locations to find out how best to attract and meet the needs of this client group.

This is one of the best examples we have to date of how social marketing aligned with evidence-based interventions can have a real impact on reducing health inequalities on an individual and population basis. The Weight's Over has proved a great platform for further intervention.