Manchester Medical Students and the HAPPY Scheme

On Wednesday 24th October I gave a talk to a lovely group of medical students from Manchester Medical School. The event was organised by the committee of the HAPPY scheme (Healthy And Proactive Project for Youth): a student action on childhood obesity in which volunteers go into local schools and nurseries to teach the children about healthy eating and exercise.


My talk was titled Beyond 5-A-Day: does your diet lead to disease? and covered some basic elements of public health and epidemiology before moving on to discuss three diet-disease case-studies: osteoporosis, breast cancer and heart disease. I asked the students to complete ten true or false questions as they arrived in the room, and discussed the answers during the talk, which I tried to keep as relaxed and interactive as possible. We used the flip-chart to list as many diseases as they could think of that might be caused by diet, and I found out a bit about what they thought about their own eating patterns too. There were quite a few vegetarians in the audience, and several people who had tried “diets” of one form or another. They were a very engaged and reflective group who asked lots of questions, and their main criticism was that we ran a bit over-time.

Here are the ten questions. They were intended to provoke intelligent debate, rather than simply convey facts, so not all of them have an absolutely right or wrong answer. I’m hoping to get some video clips of the relevant parts of my talk online soon, so watch this space for further discussion!


True or False?

  1. Currently, 30% of children aged 2-15 years are overweight or obese
  2. When available, children will naturally choose foods high in sugar, salt and fat
  3. The best way to reduce childhood obesity is to educate parents and children about the benefits of healthy eating and exercise
  4. The natural diet of our closest genetic relative in the animal kingdom consists of 97% fruit, nuts, seeds and leaves
  5. Free school milk is an important public health intervention in the fight against osteoporosis
  6. 30% of the world’s population does not drink milk after weaning
  7. Mammograms are the best way of preventing breast cancer
  8. The number one killer of adults in the UK is atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease
  9. Everyone in this room probably has atherosclerosis
  10. Atherosclerosis is both preventable and reversible without drugs


And here are their comments, from the evaluation sheets:

What were the best aspects of the session?

  • Wealth of challenging information
  • Very inspired to act to change my diet and lifestyle
  • Fascinating epidemiology info.
  • All the information and statistics that are unheard of and not within the public eye
  • Related to different studies
  • Statistics-based
  • Interaction, maybe partly because audience isn’t too big?
  • Interesting and informative – myth-busting
  • The case studies
  • Giving examples for diet leading to disease
  • Enthusiasm for topic
  • Easy to understand = not too much jargon
  • The statistics which contradicted public perception
  • Controversial and interesting topic
  • Thought-provoking topic
  • Becoming more aware of things I have not previously known
  • Enjoyed the interactive approach and how enthusiastic Dr Storm is
  • Involving the audience
  • Easing into topics
  • Range of topics and recommendations for further reading
  • Learning about the focus of public health awareness
  • Issues surrounding informing the public – risks of not doing so
  • Use of personal stories
  • Use of statistics and graphs

What aspects of this session worked less well for you?

  • Not enough time to hear it all
  • Could have explained more points of view and explained evidence more in depth
  • Timing
  • Limited time. Maybe a 2 hour session would be better

What changes, if any, would you make?

  • Free wine
  • None
  • No changes
  • Finish on time
  • More focus on Q&A

Any other comments?

  • No
  • Highly motivating and interesting presentation – very interesting research and topic

Please rate the session overall:

  • 5 (Excellent) =                   4                   ratings
  • 4                       =                   10                   ratings
  • 3 (Okay)         =                   0                   ratings
  • 2                        =                   0                   ratings
  • 1 (Poor)           =                   0                   ratings

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