New app to tackle child obesity across Staffordshire

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A Staffordshire business is launching a new mobile phone app to help tackle child obesity across the county and beyond.

The app has been developed in partnership with Staffordshire University and Staffordshire County Council through the Staffordshire Digital Innovation Partnership (SDIPs) programme, which provides six-months of fully funded support for local businesses to research and develop new digital products, processes and services.

Time 4 Wellbeing is a new weight management tool designed by Time 4 Sport which uses gamification to encourage children and their families to be more physically active and eat healthier.

Wayne Glover, Managing Director at Time 4 Sport, explained: “For some time we have wanted to produce a weight management app to support families to be fitter, healthier and happier through educating them about physical education and nutrition. Since the pandemic we’ve seen an increase in the number of children who are above their ideal weight and so there is an even greater need for this type of support.

“We had the knowledge of what the content should be but didn’t have to technical know-how to actually make the app, so that’s where the SDIPs programme came in.”

Time 4 Sport has been delivering health and wellbeing activities in schools across the Staffordshire for over a decade. They responded to a call from Staffordshire County Council to help solve social challenges faced in the region through digital technologies and received £10,000 towards for the project.

The SDIPs scheme also provides access to specialist academic support, resources and a fulltime project intern. Thomas Gilbert, a BSc (Hons) Computing Science graduate from Staffordshire University, was recruited to help Time 4 Sport build the app from scratch and after impressing the team during the six-month internship he was offered a full-time IT Manager role.

Thomas said: “One of the biggest problems that a lot of graduates have when looking for jobs is a lack of experience, so getting involved in SDIPs or any similar schemes with the University is definitely worth it.

“The internship allowed me to gain experience and build my confidence all while being paid, and now I have a permanent job which is great. It is exciting to know that hundreds of families will be using an app that I’ve made and that it will be helping people.”

Aimed at all children from ages two to 18, the Time 4 Wellbeing app sets user specific goals such as eating fewer unhealthy snacks, reducing screen time, increasing fruit and vegetable intake or completing the recommended daily 60 minutes of physical activity for children.

On completing their weekly goals, users are rewarded with in-app prizes and, in future, Wayne hopes to work with partners such as supermarkets or leisure centres to offer real-life rewards.

The app is currently being user tested and is due to be rolled out across Staffordshire this summer after Time 4 Sport secured a four-year contract with the County Council to deliver weight management interventions.

Wayne said: “The support through SDIPs has been fantastic. There was a gap in our knowledge which Tom was able to fill and he has led the project brilliantly. All this has resulted in securing a long-term contract which means we can invest in more staff and services to improve our offering.”

The Time 4 Wellbeing app will enable Staffordshire County Council to provide instant support for early intervention, reduce waiting times for referred children and provide real time data monitoring which in the long term will save costs and take pressure off health and wellbeing services.

Tim Horne, Director of Research at Staffordshire University, said: “This project is an excellent example of how businesses can benefit from the expertise and resources here at Staffordshire University, leading to an exciting new product which has the potential to help families not just here in Staffordshire but also nationally.”

Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for children and young people Mark Sutton said: “This is a superb digital solution to support our collective efforts to tackle obesity in young people. Through our Staffordshire Digital Innovation Partnerships programme we’re finding innovative ways to improve health and wellbeing. Working with Staffordshire University we’re promoting local talent to support small businesses which then delivers better outcomes for our communities.”

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*The Staffordshire Digital Innovation Partnership (SDIPs) is funded by Staffordshire University, Staffordshire County Council and the European Regional Development Fund 2014-2020.

Staffordshire University is the Connected University; connected to the needs of students, academic partners, business and society. Our main city campus in Stoke-on-Trent features excellent learning and teaching facilities and good transport links. We have specialist Centres of Excellence in Healthcare Education at Stafford and Shrewsbury.  

We were recognised with a Gold award in the 2019 Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) for delivering consistently outstanding teaching, learning and outcomes for students.  

We were shortlisted for University of the Year at the THE Awards 2020 and were named ‘Midlands University of the Year’ at the Midlands Business Awards 2020. 
Staffordshire University has signed up to the Civic University Agreement, pledging to play a leading role in improving the regional economy and enhancing quality of life in local communities. We were recognised in the top 15 for social inclusion in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021. We aim to be a leading university for digital technologies building on our proud computing heritage and in 2019 launched Staffordshire University London’s Digital Institute which is committed to preparing students for careers in new and emerging tech industries. 

We are a Top 250 Young University (Times Higher Education Young University Rankings 2020) and are connected globally, with more than 11,000 people studying Staffordshire University degrees overseas.