The Role Of Nurses In Treating Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity is a troubling epidemic. Nurses are among the healthcare professionals who are helping fight the effects of obesity on children and adolescents.

Causes of Childhood Obesity

Approximately 1 in 5 children and adolescents in the United States are affected by obesity. It is a condition that adds to a higher risk of many illnesses including diabetes, heart disease, and psychological and lifestyle issues.

There are many factors that play a role in obesity:

  • Genetics. Children whose family members struggle with obesity are also likely to struggle with it themselves. 
  • Socioeconomic factors. Studies have found that people with less education face a higher risk of obesity.
  • Lifestyle issues. Diet and lack of activity contribute to childhood obesity. 
  • Psychological factors. Stress from personal, school, or family life can increase a child’s risk of obesity if binge eating is used as a coping mechanism.

Keep in mind, some children have larger body frames and hold different amounts of body fat at various stages of their development. 

Trained and skilled healthcare professionals can identify the characteristics and risk factors associated with obesity in children.

How Nurses Are Fighting the Obesity Epidemic

Nurses are in a position to positively impact the obesity epidemic. Nursing is not only a profession of compassion, but also education. Nurses’ role in educating patients and families about nutrition and wellness is valuable.

An important way nurses help patients is through helping them establish health goals. They also emphasize the importance of exercise and a healthy diet as keys to successful weight management to youth and their caretakers. Nurses also serve a role in prevention—they assess risk factors and monitor patient health to determine if they are at risk for obesity.

Children especially look to nurses as being caretakers because they are hands on and sometimes the first and only healthcare provider they see. Nurses provide individualized health plans designed to address young patients’ challenges.

Equity-Oriented Obesity Prevention

Nurses address the underlying causes of obesity by understanding and recognizing the many factors that influence health and wellness. They may acknowledge how health equity plays a part in conditions such as obesity. Health equity is the state in which everyone has a fair and just opportunity to attain their highest level of health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Efforts typically:

  • address historical and contemporary injustices;
  • overcome economic, social, and other obstacles to health and health care; and
  • eliminate preventable health disparities.

A health equity framework considers housing, transportation, nutrition, physical activity, education, income, laws and policies, and discrimination.

Nurses’ expertise in the healthcare system also means they are critical advocates for patients. They are links between patients and healthcare providers and social services. Nursing work is naturally focused on holistic care. Nurses help physicians and community organizations understand the needs of a population.

Nurses, with the support of resources and policies, are often successful in improving children’s nutrition and physical activity. Proven healthcare strategies focused on prevention and care management are effective in treating obesity.

Learn More About Carlow’s Nursing BSN

Jobs for registered nurses will continue to grow through this decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Growth will occur because of the need for preventative care and increasing rates of chronic conditions such as obesity. Carlow’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program is designed to prepare nurses who will meet this need. For example, courses include Nursing Care of Children and Adolescents, which emphasizes the nurse’s role in health promotion, prevention, therapeutic, and restorative care to children and adolescents.

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