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Nurses 'ideally placed' to face child obesity crisis in Wales

‘Specialist help’ is needed for obese children in Wales as they face an increase in major health problems

‘Specialist help’ is needed for obese children in Wales as they face an increase in major health problems, according to the Welsh Obesity Society.

According to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in Wales, nurses are ‘ideally placed’ as the healthcare practitioners with the expertise and training needed to combat trends and health problems worrying officials.

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WOS chair Professor Nadim Haboubi said there were NHS clinics were available for obese adults but children had to wait until they were 16. He estimated 11% of four to five-year-olds are obese and said he knew of nine-year-olds with type 2 diabetes – a condition usually found in people aged 40 and above.

As the largest workforce working with children, their families and carers, nurses are ideally placed to take on this agenda within Wales across all health care sectors and all healthcare environments,’ said RCN Wales primary care and independent sector advisor Louise Lidbury.

‘It takes a highly skilled nurse to develop the relationship and trust from which the health promotion activity is embraced and accepted in partnership to improving people’s lives.

‘Obesity is high on the agenda, especially as statistics show the rising profiles of overweight children and the link to this with diabetes. However, as these numbers rise nurses are having to adapt their practice in response to the increasing demand.’

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Health promotion, identifying and recognising health and well-being, is a fundamental part of the nurse training and practice. The training includes areas such as motivational interviewing, supporting behaviour change and Making Every Contact Count (MECC).

According to Ms Lidbury, training is required for nurses working in primary and community care. Nurses working in community settings are most often the first professional to pick up on the health needs of children and their family members.

Ms Lidbury also said they are also aware that when discussing the child’s obesity, family relationships are embedded in the need for health promotion.

‘Decreasing number of nurses, the lack of additional targeted training and capacity within their day to day role, is impacting on the nurse’s ability to interact with children,’ said Ms Lidbury.

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It was found that 59% of adults in Wales are overweight, with 23% classed as obese, in the National Survey for Wales 2016-17. This makes Wales the most overweight nation in the UK.

During the newest Child Measurement Programme, it was found 26% of reception-age children were overweight or obese in Wales, compared to 22% in England, with 11% of children obese in Wales, while the average fell to 9% in England.