Weighty problem: how we can help staff and colleagues stay healthy

C3 Collaborating for Health has published resources to reduce obesity in the healthcare workforce

C3 Collaborating for Health has published resources to reduce obesity in the healthcare workforce

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Nurses and nursing have rarely been under such pressure as they are now, and the highly sensitive issue of obesity in nurses, while talked about informally, is often avoided.

According to a prevalence study recently published in BMJ Open, one in four nurses in England is obese. In response to such concerns about the health of nurses, the Burdett Trust for Nursing asked C3 Collaborating for Health (C3) to explore the issue.

C3 has therefore established a partnership with the RCN and London South Bank University to look at how to help nurses achieve and maintain a healthy weight. The project is known as the Healthy Weight Initiative for Nurses, or WIN.

Through WIN, we have listened to hundreds of nurses across the country, in focus groups and workshops, at RCN congress and at a variety of other events. We have discussed ways to reduce obesity, and identified what has worked for some nurses and what could work for others.


But whose responsibility is it to care for the nurses in this way? Many would say nurses themselves, but we would argue that it is the responsibility of employers, the health service, the nursing community, nursing organisations and patients too. All have roles to play.

If employers want to keep their nurses healthy and working, they should ask them how they can do more to help them achieve a healthy weight. The NHS has a huge role to play in setting standards and providing extra funds to support initiatives.

Nursing organisations should overcome their concerns of upsetting nurses by discussing this issue and consider how they can help to ensure that nurses maintain the level of health needed to carry out their professional roles, as required by their professional code, and help them stay healthy for longer given the growing need to work beyond the age of 65.

Of course, patients are at the centre of everything nurses do. Patients and relatives alike want to thank the nurses, but perhaps it is time to do so in ways other than by giving them sweets, biscuits and chocolate.

Then there are the nurses themselves, who like the rest of society are susceptible to the pressures, stresses and temptations that make the general population obese.


Two of the WIN initiatives focus on nurses’ own responsibility: free access to online obesity courses, Living and Working with Obesity, and the development of Nursing You.

Nursing You is an interactive, decision-making PDF designed by nurses to help them identify trigger points during their working day when they are most likely to make unhealthy eating choices and then to promote healthier alternatives. Reflecting real-life situations commonly experienced by nurses, Nursing You is now being turned into an app that will be available to all nurses free of charge this month.

Obesity in nursing is now raised as an issue and, with no single simple solution in sight, C3 will continue to push forward this important and sensitive topic, working with nurses for nurses.

About the author


Michaela Nuttall is associate in nursing, at C3 Collaborating for Health




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