A new app has been launched to help people with Down’s syndrome make more informed choices about healthy eating and exercise. Research shows that more than 70% of people with the condition are overweight or obese, and that less than 20% hit the Government’s physical activity recommendations. The Down’s Syndrome Association have developed the ‘Health Swap’ app to try and help people with Down’s syndrome to make healthier lifestyle choices and improve their physical and mental well being. Being healthy and active is important for everyone, but it is especially important for people with Down’s syndrome who can be more susceptible to weight-related conditions such as Type 2 diabetes and obesity.

“It’s worrying that so many people with Down’s syndrome are classed as obese or overweight. Through our DSActive programme we put on a number of sporting activities across the country and we’ve made great strides in supporting people to play more sport, but clearly more help is needed.

Nutrition is an important part of becoming more healthy and active, and we know that for many people with Down’s syndrome it is a challenge to eat healthily. The Health Swap appis specifically designed to support people with Down’s syndrome and their parents and carers to make positive changes to their lifestyle through healthier eating and activity tracking, and also helps increase their digital skills. It empowers people with learning disabilities to make their own choices and take control of their health.” Alex Rawle, DSActiveProject Manager

Staying motivated to be healthy is easier with Health Swap as the app awards the user with badges and points as they make positive changes to improve their health. They can choose from many healthy home cooked meal alternatives, and get expert nutritional advice and pointers by learning how to ‘eat the rainbow’.

Gone are the days of sifting through healthy eating recipe books and scribbling long lists of ingredients. Health Swap helps the user plan for the week ahead by giving scrollable ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Once the user has planned their meals, the app will automatically create a really useful shopping list. And the Health Swap app does not stop there – it also gives step-by-step instructions on how to prepare and cook healthy breakfasts, lunches, dinners, desserts and snacks – it couldn’t be simpler!

The Health Swap app project has been funded by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, through their Digital Inclusion Fund. It’s also been designed to help people with Down’s syndrome improve their digital skills and improve their competency with mobile technology. In a world rapidly moving towards digitalisation, this can be a problem for some people with learning disabilities. Health Swap is specifically designed with this in mind, and has been tested at all stages in its development by people with Down’s syndrome.

The DSActive team have been working with app development company The Distance to develop the app. It’s been designed around the needs of the users, with its main aim to create easy access to nutritionally rich recipes.

Guy Wilcox, Project Delivery Officer from the DSA said: “We’ve designed the app so it’s really simple to use, with big images, large font and a simple navigation system. For me, the DSActive Health Swap app was both a challenge I couldn’t refuse and one that’s close to my heart. My eldest brother Paul has Down’s syndrome and my mother, who’s also a trained nutritional therapist, is passionate about improving quality of life through healthy eating. Myself and my other brother have a combined experience of 35 years in app development so I really felt we were uniquely positioned to address the challenges that the Health Swap app posed and I’m delighted with the results. It’s designed to be really easy to use, so the only thing you’ve got to lose is weight whilst feeling great!”

The Health Swap app is designed for people with Down’s syndrome and their parents or carers, and is available for free on Apple and Android smartphones and tablets. It can be downloaded here.

The DSActive programme: DSActive is designed to provide as many opportunities as possible for people with Down’s syndrome to be active and healthy. DSActive was created in response to the awareness of the sedentary lifestyles of many children and adults with Down’s syndrome and the subsequent health problems, including obesity, resulting from lack of exercise and participation in sport. DSActive is a programme for people with Down’s syndrome administered by the Down’s Syndrome Association (DSA). We aim to provide as many opportunities as possible to be active across England and Wales.www.dsactive.org.uk

Down’s syndrome: Down’s syndrome is a genetic condition caused by the presence of an extra chromosome.  Around one in every 1,000 babies is born with Down’s syndrome. There are over 40,000 people with the condition in the UK.

Everyone with Down’s syndrome will have some degree of learning disability. The most important thing to remember is that everyone with Down’s syndrome is an individual, with their own strengths and weaknesses and personality traits that make them who they are.

The Down’s Syndrome Association (DSA) is a registered (1061474) national charity that exists to provide information and support for people with Down’s syndrome, their families, carers and those with a professional interest. The DSA seeks to improve knowledge and understanding and champion the rights of people with Down’s syndrome.

To find out more about the work of the DSA visit our website: www.downs-syndrome.org.uk