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How can you help your patients reduce their own risk of chronic disease?

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Health promotion is part of every nurse’s role but conversations are not always easy to start. Practice nurse and health promotion enthusiast, Jaqui Walker, explains how World Cancer Research Fund can help

From the moment I first qualified as a nurse, I saw the pain cancer brings to individuals and their loved ones in my role in oncology. This awareness grew as I attended international cancer conferences I became aware of the growing interest and importance of health promotion in cancer prevention.

Now, as a general practice nurse, I am acutely aware that many chronic diseases, including a number of cancers, cardiovascular disease and diabetes have the potential to be prevented by people living healthier lives.

Successful health promotion leading to lifestyle changes can not only reduce the number of people developing devastating conditions but will also reduce financial burdens on an overstretched NHS.

“Many chronic diseases, including a number of cancers, cardiovascular disease and diabetes have the potential to be prevented by people living healthier lives”

My interest led me to get involved with World Cancer Research Fund UK – a charity focused on cancer prevention through diet, weight and physical activity. This has helped me understand to what extent a healthy lifestyle can prevent cancer.

We all know that any amount of smoking is bad for a person’s health but what many don’t realise is that after not smoking, being a healthy weight is actually the most important thing a person can do to reduce their cancer risk.

“…that’s an incredible 84,000 fewer people developing cancer each year in the UK”

A third of the most common cancers could be prevented if people chose to have a healthy diet, be physically active and maintain a healthy body weight - that’s an incredible 84,000 fewer people developing cancer each year in the UK.

It’s not always easy to find the best way to encourage people to live healthier lives and World Cancer Research Fund UK has a number of health professional workshops available to all health professionals including nurses that can be useful.

Nurses play an important role in reaching out to people and there are opportunities that arise to talk to people about improving their lifestyles. A crucial contact point is when carrying out the basic health measures – which I include as part of most consultations. We all know how time, in a busy surgery, is a constraint but I believe it’s about starting up those important conversations with people and signposting them to resources, such as the World Cancer Research Fund UK’s Healthy New You Planner, that are relevant and helpful.

“Many of my patients have made significant changes and benefited health wise”

It’s also important to identify and then talk through the relevant basic health measure that they can improve. Most people do welcome the discussion and many of my patients have made significant changes and benefited health wise as a result.

This New Year I’m encouraging people to sign up to the World Cancer Research Fund UK’s ‘I CAN’ campaign, its aim is to help them stick to healthy New Year’s resolutions that could reduce their cancer risk.

People can sign up to receive email tips on weight, diet, alcohol and physical activity. It’s a practical way that nurses can encourage people to make easy and sustainable lifestyle changes that can help reduce their cancer risk.

Jaqui Walker is a general practice nurse at Allan Park Medical Practice in Stirling

 

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