Parents-to-be in Huntingdonshire are to take part in a study concerning how likely it will be that their child will become overweight.

Health visitors in Cambridgeshire have a new tool in the fight against obesity - a computer application designed to predict if a child will have weight problems as they get older.

The study, which is being led by Professor Sarah Redsell of Anglia Ruskin University, has led to the development of this new diagnostic tool called ProAsk - Proactive Assessment of Overweight Risk during Infancy.

Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust is working with Anglia Ruskin University on the 18-month research project.

Half of the babies that will be eligible to take part in this study will be born in Hinchingbrooke Hospital, the other 50 per cent in Peterborough.

Research has shown that there are certain risk factors associated with a baby becoming overweight as they get older, so questions are asked about parental weight and lifestyle during pregnancy, and the baby's birth weight and growth.

Health visitors in the county will ask parents to enter the information via a tablet device during routine appointments. The study will look at whether parents and carers find the application useful and whether health visitors can use the results to tailor their advice regarding keeping children at a healthy weight.

Professor of public health at Anglia Ruskin University Sarah Redsell said: "Children who are above a healthy weight are more likely to be ill and have time off school. Being very overweight in childhood can also sow the seeds for health problems in later life, such as heart disease and diabetes.

"One approach is to try and intervene early in life. The information we get from this study will help us understand whether or not parents or carers would like to know about the risk and, if so, whether health visitors can work with them to help understand how they might lower the risk for their baby."