The past fortnight has seen a flurry of communications on obesity-related issues.
First, England's Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies' annual report on child health, highlighted obesity in children as a significant long-term issue that must be addressed. NICE called for support for parents and carers in identifying when a child is overweight, making changes at home and getting the family more active based on its guidance Lifestyle and Weight Management Services for Children and Young People. In an attempt to underpin this advice with public health policy, the government announced it had convinced some big food industry names to sign up to a voluntary pledge to reduce the amount of saturated fat in their products, and therefore the nation's diet.
Unfortunately, the DH's pledge announcement was undermined by extensive media coverage over the preceeding days given to a cardiologist's opinion piece in the BMJ which argued that saturated fat is not to blame for the high rates of obesity and coronary heart disease that have emerged over the past 40 years. When presented with such conflicting informaton, are we any clearer on which choices to make? Childhood obesity must be tackled, but is the public likely to be any clearer on how to do it? Even without the question over saturated fat's role in obesity and coronary heart disease, was removing some fat from Kit Kats and Oreos likely to transform the nation's health or parents' ability to make the right choices for their children?
Primary care nurses see the effects of poor nutrition and obesity daily. People will look to health professionals for guidance on saturated fat and low-fat diets, as well statins, based on the BMJ opinion piece. Nurses will be required to have answers ready to support the public in making choices that will improve health outcomes.