Nurses encouraged to have hard conversations to reduce childhood obesity

n the immediate wake of the first unified World Obesity Day, which took place on 4 March 2020, the Australian College of Nursing has developed a toolkit to equip nurses to be the primary health care lead in caring for children and young people who are overweight or obese.

“Overweight and obesity is a global health challenge,” Australian College of Nursing CEO, Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward FACN said. “Nearly one-quarter of Australian children are overweight or obese and rates are projected to increase.”

“Evidence indicates a strong link between childhood obesity and obesity in adulthood. Obesity is associated with the development of diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In many cases, these diseases are due to lifestyle factors and are preventable.”

In its Effectiveness of Nurse-led Interventions in the Assessment and Management of Overweight and Obese Children and Young People Position Statement – also discussed last night at ACN’s Nursing Roadshow in Sydney – ACN points to evidence that high-intensity behavioural interventions are more effective in reducing the prevalence of overweight children than the usual clinical care.

“We need to educate and encourage people, including young people, to take control of their health,” Chair of the ACN Chronic Disease Policy Chapter, Professor Lisa Whitehead MACN said. “Nurse-led interventions can help change behaviours and improve patients’ diet and nutritional decision-making.

“However, weight is a sensitive subject. Starting a conversation regarding weight can be difficult, especially when it comes to children. The ACN Toolkit for Nurses Working with Children above a Healthy Weight in Primary Health Care will support nurses in broaching this subject, monitoring a child’s weight and ensuring families are better informed about diet.

“While we have released our own workforce aid today, ACN would like the Commonwealth to support and resource our profession to identify children at risk of excessive weight gain and provide timely, sensitive interventions targeting a whole of family approach to improve eating and activity behaviours.

“We must create opportunities to pilot innovative nurse-led approaches to this challenge and equip the nursing workforce to empower children, youths and parents to seek support in order to prevent and manage overweight and obesity. Australians also deserve the reassurance which comes from knowing every school-aged child has access to a suitably qualified and experienced registered nurse to care for their health.”

ACN is also calling on the Federal Government to increase preventative health funding, tax sugar-sweetened beverages and food, and regulate the marketing of unhealthy food to children.



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