As outlined in my previous post, the prevalence of children living with obesity is one of the biggest health problems that we face in the UK and continues to grow rapidly. As healthcare professionals, we have a responsibility to urgently tackle this epidemic.
However, there are significant barriers that can be challenging and frustrating to overcome, and these difficulties should be acknowledged. Firstly, we live in an obesogenic environment, where systemic and societal factors limit individual control over weight management. This includes the advertising and availability of unhealthy foods, food provision in schools and hospitals, and accessibility of outdoor space. These systemic factors contribute significantly to inequalities in child health. Unfortunately, there is also a lack of weight management referral services, and significant variation between areas of the country, further contributing to inequalities in health outcomes.
Raising the topic of weight management with patients and their families is another challenge in itself. It is important to recognise the hesitancy that we may experience in raising this confidently and sensitively during consultations. By developing our own knowledge and experience to enable these conversations in our own everyday clinical practice, we have the potential to make substantial differences to individuals and their families.
There are numerous ways in which we can make every contact count with our patients in relation to promoting healthy weight. For example:
- Demonstrating an awareness of weight bias and stigma, and how this may have affected previous engagement with healthcare services
- Framing conversations with a focus on a child’s health, rather than their weight
- Shared decision-making, with a focus on small, achievable targets, or SMART goals
- Delivering brief advice on physical activity (see physical activity guidelines below), sleep, emotional wellbeing, and diet (see Eatwell Guide below)
- Signposting to local services
- Seeking advice or referral regarding medication which may be contributing to weight gain
- Consider referral to dietician, health visitor, or social prescribers where appropriate
- Raising safeguarding concerns
For more tips, please see some great resources below, and keep an eye out for my next post where I’ll be outlining the 5 A’s approach to managing conversations around promoting healthy weight!
RCGP Child and Adolescent Obesity e-learning module
Framing toolkit for Childhood Obesity
Coming soon: Nutrition Rocks x Nutritank Weight Stigma course for GPs
NHS Physical Activity guidelines for children and young people