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Readers’ panel: Is a reluctance to upset people contributing to the ‘normalisation’ of obesity?

As new figures show that obesity rates in children are rising, England’s chief medical officer has warned against watering down the language used when talking about obesity. Nursing Standard’s readers’ panellists have their say. 
Obesity

As new figures show that obesity rates in children are rising, Englands chief medical officer has warned against watering down the language used when talking about obesity. Nursing Standards readers panellists have their say.

Rachel Kent is a mental health nurse in London

As caring professionals, we dont want to upset our patients. But this does not mean we should shy away from or avoid using the correct clinical terminology. If someone is obese and their health is at risk, this needs to be expressed clearly. Using softer words is not necessarily in the patients best interests we dont have a soft word for cancer or dementia. What we can do is choose how we deliver the news, and provide patients with support and advice so they

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As new figures show that obesity rates in children are rising, England’s chief medical officer has warned against watering down the language used when talking about obesity. Nursing Standard’s readers’ panellists have their say.


New figures show that obesity rates in children are rising. Picture: Alamy


Rachel Kent is a mental health nurse in London 

As caring professionals, we don’t want to upset our patients. But this does not mean we should shy away from or avoid using the correct clinical terminology. If someone is obese and their health is at risk, this needs to be expressed clearly. Using ‘softer’ words is not necessarily in the patient’s best interests – we don’t have a soft word for cancer or dementia. What we can do is choose how we deliver the news, and provide patients with support and advice so they feel empowered to change.


Drew Payne is a community staff nurse in north London 
@drew_london

I was not thin at school and because of my weight got called names that were worse than ‘obese’. None of that encouraged me to lose weight; what did was finding exercise I enjoyed and positive reasons to lose weight, such as starting a relationship. Obesity is a public health problem and nurses have to be honest with their patients, but sensitivity is key, and we have to be mindful that we are not ‘shaming’ patients into losing weight. This will make them feel angry and resentful rather than being a catalyst for change. 


Beverley Ramdeen is a lecturer in adult nursing in Hertfordshire 

Obesity is a clinical term that healthcare professionals have a responsibility to use when communicating with patients. Given the increasing obesity rates, especially among children, we need to address this problem head-on, rather than worry about causing offence. In addition to identifying obesity, strategies must be in place so health professionals can work with patients to tackle the problem. Communication needs to be clear, using the correct term for the physical description, and patients supported to help them lose weight. 


Stephanie Cumming is a practice nurse in Warwickshire 

If we are to tackle the worrying rise in obesity rates and promote healthy lifestyles, nurses must not be afraid to speak openly with patients. Although letters from schools informing parents that their child is obese have caused offence to some, it is imperative that nurses are not put off. Aversion to difficult weight-related conversations could play a part in the normalisation of obesity. It is crucial that nurses are able to broach these issues with patients sensitively and honestly, without sugar-coating the issue. 


Readers’ panel members give their views in a personal capacity and do not represent their organisations

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