Harry MacMillan, MEND’s Chief Executive Officer, tells us about MEND’s beginnings and how much it has grown and evolved since inception.

How did it all start?
The first MEND program was developed in 2000 and the pilot program was launched in 2002. After starting research at Great Ormond Street Hospital and the UCL Institute of Child Health in the U.K in 2003, MEND Central Ltd was set up in 2004, operating as a social enterprise, to build on this successful concept.

Why was MEND established?
Paul Sacher, our Chief Research and Development Officer, Dr Paul Chadwick (now our Clinical Director) and I formed a team, made up of people from a wide range of backgrounds, to create an alternative to the standard approach in treating obesity. Most of us worked with no pay in every spare second we could find for a couple of years, usually around kitchen tables!

What did you want to achieve?
Our goal was ambitious, but simple—to make as big a difference to as many people as possible, especially those less advantaged, by developing weight management and healthy lifestyle programs that worked.

How was your approach different?
Our ethos of partnering across sectors and drawing on experience from a range of backgrounds was born at the outset – as was the need to develop a suite of prevention, treatment, training and capacity building services in the area of obesity management. Measurement, research and evaluation remain key, as does the  possible application of what we have developed for needs outside of obesity as well.

How did MEND come to the U.S.?
After recognizing the scope of the problem in North America (66% of American adults and 34% of American children are either overweight or obese), we started the MEND Foundation in 2008 as an independent non-profit organization focusing on underserved children and families. We then successfully launched the MEND 7-13 pilot program in a wide range of community settings around the US. Preliminary results show that MEND has a positive impact on the lives of overweight and obese children, in keeping with our findings in the UK.

In 2011, through a variety of like-minded programs and partners driven by a mutual desire to help all Americans live healtheir lives and to ease the burden on the healthcare system in this country, MEND Central, Inc came to the US to offer MEND’s programs to an even wider population, regardless of income. The MEND program has been fully and effectively adapted to US dietary and physical activity policy guidelines. MEND’s approach in the U.S. is aligned with the CDC Obesity Care Model and meets the stringent criteria of the US Preventive Services Taskforce for the treatment of childhood obesity.

We will no doubt continue to learn and improve as we move forward—stay tuned, because MEND’s story in the US is just beginning.


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