News

Long-awaited government plan highlights how nurses can help tackle childhood obesity

Government's new childhood obesity strategy, which calls on nurses to help tackle the problem, is branded 'a missed opportunity' by the Obesity Health Alliance for its failure to curb junk food advertising.
Child in playground

Nurses need to be prepared to have difficult conversations with parents about diet in a bid to tackle child obesity, the government has said.

The governments long-awaited childhood obesity strategy makes a series of recommendations on how health professionals can help curb rising levels of obesity, including training for school nurses and health visitors on how to identify weight issues in children at the earliest possible stage.

Childhood Obesity: A plan for Action also calls on staff to talk to parents about their familys diet, aiming to weigh every patient as a matter of course, and referring people to weight management clubs and services where needed.

Health Education England and Public Health England have also published new online resources for staff on initiating difficult conversations about health and wellbeing.

Government pledges

Other pledges made in the report include:

  • A review of the content of

Nurses need to be prepared to have difficult conversations with parents about diet in a bid to tackle child obesity, the government has said.

The government’s long-awaited childhood obesity strategy makes a series of recommendations on how health professionals can help curb rising levels of obesity, including training for school nurses and health visitors on how to identify weight issues in children at the earliest possible stage.

Childhood Obesity: A plan for Action also calls on staff to talk to parents about their family’s diet, aiming to weigh every patient as a matter of course, and referring people to weight management clubs and services where needed.

Health Education England and Public Health England have also published new online resources for staff on initiating difficult conversations about health and wellbeing.

Government pledges

Other pledges made in the report include:

  • A review of the content of materials used by midwives and health visitors on nutrition, physical activity, healthy weight and weaning so families can get the best advice.
  • A plan to explore how evidence-based healthy weight advice can be introduced at other contact points, such as during routine child immunisations.

The wider action plan has a big emphasis on greater physical activity in schools, and a voluntary scheme for the food industry to reformulate popular children’s products to reduce the sugar content.

Also central to the plan is the government’s sugar tax on soft drinks which will come into force in 2018.

Despite repeated calls from health campaigners, curbs on junk food advertising do not form part of the document.

Desperate need for investment

RCN professional lead for children and young people’s nursing Fiona Smith said the plan was more notable for what it didn’t contain, than for what it did.

‘Nurses working in health visiting, school nursing and public health roles can make a huge difference to the health and lifestyles of families and these services must be given the sustained investment they so desperately need. 

‘It is deeply concerning that there is no mention of plans to tackle the marketing which is aimed at children, which can normalise and incentivise unhealthy habits. As well as more concerted government action, food and drinks manufacturers must act responsibly to ensure firstly that unnecessary sugar is eliminated, and also that consumers can be properly informed.

A missed opportunity'

‘Many obese parents go on to have obese children, and this can lead to a cycle of inequality, ill health and social isolation which continues through the generations. Unless unprecedented efforts are made, we will be storing up problems for years to come.’ 

The Obesity Health Alliance – of which the RCN is a member – branded the strategy underwhelming, calling it a ‘missed opportunity’.

Further information:

Obesity Strategy: a plan for action

Sign up to continue reading for FREE

OR

Subscribe for unlimited access

Enjoy 1 month's access for £1 and get:

  • Full access to nursing standard.com and the Nursing Standard app
  • Monthly digital edition
  • RCNi Portfolio and interactive CPD quizzes
  • RCNi Learning with 200+ evidence-based modules
  • 10 articles a month from any other RCNi journal

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this?

Jobs