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STEPWISE – a research study to help reduce weight in people with schizophrenia

(13 October 2014)

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University of Leicester and UHL NHS Trust join forces with Southampton and Sheffield under NIHR support

Researchers from Leicester are involved in a project to investigate whether people with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder or first episode psychosis are able to reduce their weight through a structured education programme.
The project is led by Professor Richard Holt at the University of Southampton and involves researchers from the University of Leicester and University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust.



People with schizophrenia are two to three times more likely to be overweight or obese. As well as a range of adverse physical health consequences, such as diabetes and heart disease, weight gain may be an important factor that stops people taking their antipsychotic medication. This increases the risk of relapse of the schizophrenia and worse mental health.
However, if they can change their diet and exercise habits, their weight may reduce and quality of life improve.
The research, funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment (NIHR HTA) Programme, will develop an education approach, originally designed by the University of Leicester DESMOND team, to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, for people with schizophrenia. This will be examined in a randomised controlled STEPWISE (Structured lifestyle Education for People With SchizophrEnia) trial and compared to usual health and social care.

The Study 

The programme will include four weekly sessions with clinicians and follow up sessions after three, six and nine months all focussing on diet and exercise.


The study will start recruiting participants from participating NHS Trusts in December 2014.

Whos Involved

Professor Melanie Davies and Professor Kamlesh Khunti together with the DESMOND Team, based at the Leicester Diabetes Centre, led the work in the UK and globally on Structured Education Programmes designed to meet the standards of education as outlined by NICE. The programme was initially developed for people with diabetes; however, there has been interest to develop such programmes using the DESMOND approach in other disease areas such as, stroke survivors and carers, people with learning disabilities and the STEPWISE programme. 

Professor Melanie Davies, a co-investigator for the STEPWISE study said “This is an important piece of research which has a real prospect to improve the health of people living with schizophrenia”.


Further Information 

If you would like to know more about the study, please click on the following links:

or contact: 
Rebecca Gossage-Worrall
Trial Manager, CTRU
University of Sheffield
T: +44(0)114 222 5206