Childhood Obesity Prevention Tips for Healthcare Professionals
Author: Caitlin Heitz, The OrganWise Guys
As many health professionals are aware, childhood obesity is a growing problem around the globe. Although it’s become clear in recent years that the chronic diseases associated with childhood obesity (such as type 2 diabetes, heart attack and stroke) create a burden for society, it’s difficult to know how to be part of the solution. There are many simple things that healthcare professionals can do to become better equipped to handle this problem for the patients they serve. Once these small actions are taken, there can be positive impacts on child health.
Doctors, nurses, social workers, and others who provide healthcare services to children and families are at the frontline of childhood obesity prevention. These are the trusted individuals that can guide children and families in a positive way to help them make smart nutrition and physical activity choices. Although these professions are some of the most common that see the physical and psychological effects of childhood obesity, there is often not enough training and education about why it is so important to talk about prevention. If you work in one of these fields and are facing uncertainty on how to bring up the possibly sensitive subject of a child being overweight or obese, follow these tips that The OrganWise Guys have learned about from their pilot study called Healthy Clinics, Healthy Kids, which studied how healthcare professionals can play a role in fostering environments that support nutrition education.
Tip 1 – Feel Confident. Perhaps the most important starting point for any conversation is to feel confident in your ability to convey information to others. This means knowing your facts on childhood obesity. If you are not sure of the specific statistics for your area, check out your country’s information through an internet search. Childhood obesity rates are increasing in many parts of the world. For example, in the United States approximately 1 in 5 children are overweight or obese. By keeping up-to-date on current childhood obesity trends for your area, you will feel confident when discussing this topic with patients.
Tip 2 – Know the Impact. Do you know why it is important to address childhood obesity and reduce it? Some of the many negative effects of childhood obesity that can linger into adulthood include poor self-esteem, depression, anxiety, lower school test scores, increased chance for asthma, type 2 diabetes, heart attack and stroke, in addition to others. These things will certainly have a costly impact on society, whether it’s poor work performance in adulthood, increased health insurance costs, or the impact on a family when a loved one is hurting. Knowing WHY it is so important to address childhood obesity means understanding the consequences it can have on society as a whole.
Tip 3 – Equip Yourself with Tools. Now that you understand the background on childhood obesity and why it must be addressed, you need to have a way to discuss this sensitive topic. Consider investing in educational tools and resources that will assist you to have these discussions. There are a variety of free and paid curricula that can help you achieve this. Do an internet search and see which one is right for you. We recommend finding a tool that makes these discussions fun, while also empowering children and their families to make healthy food choices and engage in regular physical activity.
Now that you have the basics for beginning sensitive discussions on obesity prevention with patients, we hope that you feel confident in addressing this important topic. What are some other ways to get the conversation started?
The OrganWise Guys Inc. began in 1993 with a vision to inspire individuals to take charge of their health by assuming personal responsibility for their choices. By bringing the body to life via lovable organ characters, kids of all ages learn what it really means to be healthy and smart from the inside out. Evaluation of The OrganWise Guys’ programs is available here.
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