Health visitors and school nurses have been called on to ensure they are aware of the lifestyle weight management programmes available for children and young people in their area, according to new national care standards for England.
Armed with this knowledge, they should then broach the often awkward subject with children and young people “identified as being overweight or obese, and their parents or carers” – passing on information to them about locally available programmes.
“Lifestyle and weight management programmes can support parents and carers to identify changes”
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has today issued a quality standard on preventing obesity and lifestyle weight management for children and young people.
The new quality standard is intended to support high-quality weight management and obesity prevention interventions being provided to benefit children and young people, including lifestyle weight management.
NICE said the standard was expected to contribute to improving outcomes in areas including dietary habits, excess weight in children and young people under 18 years and prevalence of type 2 diabetes in the young.
It told local authorities to maintain an up-to-date list of local lifestyle weight management programmes so that health professionals were “aware of the programmes that exist in their area and how to access them”.
In addition, NICE called on health visitors, school nurses and staff involved in the National Child Measurement Programme to ensure they were aware themselves of the programmes available locally and how to enrol people on them.
“Childhood obesity is one of the most serious issues facing children’s health today”
It noted that raised awareness among school nurses, health visitors and staff involved in the National Child Measurement Programme and the Healthy Child Programme may “lead to more direct referrals”.
Professor Gill Leng, deputy chief executive of NICE, said: “Lifestyle and weight management programmes can support parents and carers to identify changes that can be made at home to tackle obesity and maintained over the long-term.”
The quality standard was drawn up by a 20-member advisory committee, which included Julie Clatworthy, a nurse with Gloucester Clinical Commissioning Group.
Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, described it as “reassuring” that NICE was taking action to address the problem of obesity among the young.
The NICE quality standard would support healthcare professionals to “drive forward” the fight against childhood obesity by offering practical guidance on healthier living for the whole family, he said.
However, he highlighted the threat to such efforts from recently proposed cuts to public health budgets and an ongoing lack of resources for community health services.
- Exclusive: ‘Grave concerns’ for hard-won health visitor gains
- Fears health visitors will be target in £200m public health cuts
“Childhood obesity is one of the most serious issues facing children’s health today, and this NICE quality standard is an important step towards limiting this problem,” he said.
“It must now be supported by better resourced public and community health services,” he added.