Childhood obesity – an epidemic

Around 27% of UK children are now overweight, and NHS staff unlikely to make an impact, say researchers

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NHS staff, such as GPs and practice nurses, are unlikely to have an effect on combating childhood obesity, researchers from the University of Bristol say.

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Staff told the researchers time factors, lack of options for treatment and parents’ reluctance to look at weight problems prevent them from having any impact, reports the BBC.

Those who participated in the study also mentioned that causes of obesity, like poor diet and no enough exercise, were things that were outside of their control.

There had been steps made to involve primary care staff in identifying and treating overweight children, the researchers wrote in the British Journal of General Practice. These steps include 2006 guidelines from the Department of Health and the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence.

However, the staff interviewed hadn’t seen any of the guidelines. Also, it appears that even those who thought primary care should play a part wondered how meaningful any intervention would be.

“We’re talking about an obesity epidemic – the people who go to the GP are the tip of the iceberg, “ said study leader Dr Katrina Turner, “We need to look at the availability of healthy food, safe places to play, how often children have physical exercise in the curriculum.”

A Department of Heath spokesman commenting on childhood obesity said, “There is no one group that can solve it on its own and we do not expect primary care professionals will treat and support all overweight and obese children.

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“The problem is there simply aren’t enough suitable services to cope,” said Professor Alan Maryon-Davis, president of the UK Faculty of Public Health. “Family-based approaches can be effective. But we need many more specially trained healthy eating and physical activity advisors if we’re at all serious about helping the large numbers of very overweight children.”

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