Obesity on the Rise: What Can Nurses Do?
Response by Michelle Baek to 'Advocating for the Prevention of Childhood Obesity: A Call to Action for Nursing' by Bobbie Berkowitz, PhD, RN, FAAN and Marleyse Borchard, MPH (January 31, 2009).
Increasingly children are coming through the emergency room with obesity-associated conditions. I have noticed this in my continuing role as a pediatric registered nurse (RN). One in every five children is overweight, and rates of obesity have tripled since the 1960's.
Berkowitz and Borchard in 'Advocating for the Prevention of Childhood Obesity: A Call to Action for Nursing' (January, 2009) noted that race/ethnicity, parental knowledge, dietary habits, and environmental influences all contribute to our obesity epidemic. I believe that parental knowledge and understanding is the basic and most influential factor in controlling childhood obesity. Unfortunately, minority groups, such as Hispanics, often fail to acknowledge the meaning and consequences of excess weight. I believe the first step in controlling childhood obesity needs to be an assessment of parental attitudes. Parents who are overweight themselves may not be concerned with weight control and may dismiss a nurse's concern entirely, resulting in lack of parental involvement and lack of motivation on the part of children to change eating habits. I agree with Berkowitz and Borchard that successful interventions involve at least one parent as an active participant, an increase in activity, and family/friend support. I also believe as nurses we need to have more of a focus on the readiness of the family as the initial step in addressing the challenges of obesity.
Additionally, collaborative leadership, advocacy, and social marketing skills are important tools for nurses to use in strengthening policies at the local, state, and national levels to address this epidemic. We learned early as RNs to demonstrate leadership and advocate for our patients both at individual and community levels. As nurses we need to be proactive and work with our legislators to increase access to fruits and vegetables in poor communities, eliminate high calorie beverages in school vending machines, and increase the number of recreational facilities so as to decrease TV time and promote the physical activity of our children. Because obesity contributes to cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, and other healthcare problems, a call for action is definitely needed. Nurses, parents, school officials, and legislators need to create a partnership to promote a healthy lifestyle for our youth who will become the role models for future generations.
Michelle Baek, BSN, RN
Molloy College, Rockville Centre, NY
MSN Graduate Student