Pinki Sahota is Emeritus Professor in Nutrition and Childhood Obesity at Leeds Beckett University. Pinki is a member of the Obesity Empowerment Network Steering Group and our Trustee for Communications and PR. We caught up with Pinki ahead of the launch of the new OEN UK Strategic Plan 2020-2023…

Pinki, why did you join the Obesity Empowerment Network as a Trustee and member of the Professional Steering Group?

It was my experience of working in the field of obesity that motivated me to join OEN UK. I felt that it was really important that people with obesity had a voice and they contributed to the decisions that were being made about the services available to them. My background is as a dietician, so I have a good understanding of the challenges that people face in maintaining a healthy weight. And I often found that interventions and advice were and are just done, or given, to people, rather than involving them and I felt that OEN UK gave me the opportunity to genuinely work with people with obesity and enable them to contribute to advances in our understanding of obesity and service initiatives.

You have also had roles with other major professional organisations dedicated to advancing understanding of obesity, such as Chair of the Association for the Study of Obesity (ASO). What would you say is unique to OEN UK?

It’s the collaboration between professionals and people with obesity working together to inform the agenda in policy and research which is distinctive to OEN UK. The ASO network consists of a fantastic range of professionals (academics, researchers and clinicians) but input from people with obesity needs to inform research, policy direction and practice. During my term as Chair of ASO we recognised that input from people living with obesity wasn’t happening. We could see the need for an organisation which championed the voice of people living with Obesity and ensured that the patient voice was represented in the field, and we just felt it was so important that such an organisation existed so we started exploring how we could set one up.

There are quite a few different groups doing fantastic work in different areas in the field and each have their unique strengths. The Obesity Empowerment Network exists to enable professionals and people with obesity to work together to inform policy, practice and research and address the issues that really matter to people with obesity, and this collaboration within the Network is unique to OEN UK.

What particularly excites you about the role of Trustee for Communications & PR?

What excites me is working together with the rest of the OEN team to raise the profile of OEN UK and maximise our potential. We have a lot to offer, but I don’t think we have reached our potential so far. I’m excited to develop our digital platforms, our website and social media channels; to strengthen our communication networks; and to maximise our collaborations with other networks and organisations that are also working in the field.

This month, OEN UK launches the new Strategic Plan 2020-2023. How will the plan enable OEN UK to further its mission?

The Strategic Plan 2020-2023 provides a starting point for achieving the vision that we have for OEN UK. We want to be known as an organisation that is the voice for people with obesity that is collaborating with professionals, and our Strategic Plan lays out how we will do this. 

Champions are central to OEN UK and the vision of representing the voice of people living with obesity throughout the UK and we are looking to recruit more champions for better nation-wide representation. By raising the profile of OEN UK, the Strategic Plan will support the recruitment of champions and better amplify the voice of people living with obesity.

OEN UK represents the voice of people living with obesity and advocates on their behalf and we know that this work is valuable for professionals, for interested lay people and for the public more generally. The Strategic Plan lays out how we will be the go-to organisation through which researchers, policy-makers and those developing services can seek the perspective of people living with obesity; how we will contribute to new initiatives, help campaigns and ultimately achieve better services and support for people with obesity. 

Why have OEN UK decided to publish their current Strategic Plan and make it widely available?

We have made our Strategic Plan widely available on our website because we wanted to be transparent. We wanted our membership and the public to know what we are about, what OEN UK stands for, and what we are achieving. We want people to know what we are doing so that they can get on board with our mission, to join us, support us and benefit from the Network, so we thought we’d publish it. 

How do you see the Network growing over the next 3 years?

Our Strategic Plan makes me really hopeful and confident for the growth of the Obesity Empowerment Network over the coming years. It makes me confidently hopeful for growing numbers of champions and members, and as we all advocate for better services and support for people living with obesity, I am confident that OEN UK will have a growing impact in improving the health and lives of people living with obesity. 

Pinki Sahota is Emeritus Professor in Nutrition and Childhood Obesity at Leeds Beckett University.