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Pledge to help nurses tackle conversations about childhood obesity

This article was taken from: https://www.nursingtimes.net/news/public-health/pledge-to-help-nurses-tackle-conversations-about-childhood-obesity-22-10-2019/

By Jo Stephenshon

Leading nursing organisations have pledged to support nurses, midwives, health visitors and other professionals to have tricky conversations about children’s weight as part of efforts to tackle a national childhood obesity crisis.

The Royal College of Nursing and Royal College of Midwives are among a group of professional bodies to promise to provide education and training for members to help them play a key role in tackling this complex challenge.

“Action across a child’s life course is essential to have an impact on childhood obesity”

Consensus statement

In all 20 organisations, which also include the Institute of Health Visiting and School and Public Health Nurses Association, have signed up to a consensus statement drawn up by Public Health England.

The move comes amid concern that health professionals can find it hard to raise the sensitive subject of weight when working with children, young people and parents.

A lack of confidence and training is partly to blame, suggested the consensus statement document launched last month.

“A lack of knowledge of the latest evidence, training, confidence and support are some of the challenges preventing professionals utilising opportunistic moments to enable behaviour changes in relation to eating and activity,” said the document.

It sets out a commitment to work together and a series of core principles outlining how organisations will support the public health workforce to work with individuals and communities to reduce the risk of obesity.

This includes providing education and training and raising awareness through evidence-based resources to help professionals contribute to a goal of halving childhood obesity rates by 2030.

The document emphasises the serious impact of childhood obesity, which can harm physical and mental health from an early age and into adulthood.

Currently almost one in four children are overweight or obese when they start primary school and as many as one in three are overweight or obese by the time they leave.

“Action across a child’s life course is essential to have an impact on childhood obesity and enable positive behaviour change in relation to eating and activity,” said the document.

Key stages include pre-conception and pregnancy with babies born to obese women at greater risk of stillbirth and various health issues and more likely to be obese themselves.

The document also stressed the need for ongoing advice, support and intervention in infancy and early childhood, older childhood and adolescence, and as young people make the move into independent adulthood.

It commits organisations to promoting the importance among members of raising the issue of excess weight and pointing families to appropriate support.

This includes helping nurses and others learn to communicate effectively with children, young people and their parents or carers and routinely assess and evaluate children’s body mass index (BMI).

Professional bodies who have signed up to the agreement have also pledged to boost understanding of the causes of obesity and measures that can be taken to deal with it and to encourage the use of national resources such as the Let’s Talk About Weight guide for health professionals.

Meanwhile, those who have signed up should act as “exemplars” ensuring their own policies and catering provision supports staff to maintain healthy lifestyles.