Childhood Obesity

Dr Jess Laidlaw introduces the global challenge of childhood obesity, and what you can do to make a difference.

Hello, I’m Jess. I’m one of the new junior doctor e-newsletter leads for Nutritank, and a GP trainee in Bristol particularly interested in lifestyle medicine and child health. I look forward to combining my personal and professional interests to regularly share some insights with you through the Nutritank e-newsletter and blog!

During a paediatric clinic last year, I really came to appreciate the importance of having a sound understanding of nutrition and lifestyle medicine, and the confidence to share this advice with patients. A 10-year-old girl attended with her mother, having been referred to clinic for childhood obesity. On arrival, the family had a very limited understanding of a healthy diet and behaviours, but left feeling informed and empowered to make positive changes to their lifestyle. However, my ability to deliver an effective consultation was predominantly acquired through a personal interest in healthy lifestyle and nutrition – rather than as a reflection of what I recall being taught in my medical training. This patient encounter has drawn my attention to the significant scope for improvement in nutritional education within the medical school curriculum and beyond, and highlights our potential to positively influence the wellbeing of our patients and their families through the delivery of simple dietary and lifestyle advice

As healthcare professionals, it is crucial that we are equipped with the skills to challenge the rapidly growing epidemic of childhood obesity. It is one of the biggest health problems that we face in the UK, with almost a quarter of children in England being obese or overweight when they start primary school, increasing to a third by the time they leave aged 11. The initial consequences of obesity include bullying and low self-esteem and, without intervention, can subsequently trigger a myriad of health problems in adulthood, such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer – all of which come at a huge cost to the NHS (currently about £6-billion per year).

As healthcare professionals, we have a responsibility to work in collaboration with our patients, colleagues, local authorities, and schools, do more to urgently tackle this epidemic. Nutritank have already made impressively substantial steps by achieving the incorporation of nutrition into the medical school curriculum. Over the next few months, I will outline more about the scope of the problem, introduce techniques that we can implement in our own clinical practice, and the benefits of a whole system approach.

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