Registed Nurses' Association of Ontario

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Nurses help curb obesity

According to Ontario’s Healthy Kids Panel, childhood obesity is a crisis in both Canada and Ontario. In fact, the group estimates one in every three children across the nation is living with an unhealthy weight.

The panel, which was tasked by the province’s Ministry of Health to compile recommendations to help to reduce childhood obesity by 20 per cent over five years, is comprised of 18 individuals from a variety of professional backgrounds, including health-care, education, and social marketing.

One participant is Carol Diemer, the RN representative in the group. This RNAO member knows nurses are in a unique position to help their clients – young or adult – make healthy lifestyle choices, echoing the stance of Ontario’s top nursing association. RNAO sees the value in sounding the alarm on the issue of childhood obesity, especially after a number of reports issued in Canada and across the world ranked it as a growing public health epidemic. Nurses know obesity can lead to other health concerns such as diabetes and heart disease.

In March 2013, the panel released its report No Time to Wait: the Healthy Kids Strategy. The document contains a number of recommendations – many of which RNAO has, in fact, argued for – including one that suggests the importance of breastfeeding be better promoted. Breast milk contains vital nutrients and antibodies. Breast-fed babies are also less likely to become obese later in life. RNAO has developed a best practice guideline (BPG) on breastfeeding, cited in No Time to Wait, which recommends new mothers breastfeed their babies exclusively for the first six months of a child’s life.

The report also makes reference to RNAO’s Primary Prevention of Childhood Obesity BPG, which was released in 2005 and is currently being updated, with the revised version due for release in 2014. No Time to Wait states Ontario should actively promote both BPGs’ use in relevant settings. A number of health-care organizations, including ones in Toronto, Hamilton, Windsor and Thunder Bay, have already implemented both BPGs.

The association has also publicly supported a call by NDP MPP France Gélinas to compel chain restaurants to clearly disclose calorie counts for their menu items. RNAO supports the NDP health critic’s position because it would help people who are dining out make healthy decisions about the food they eat.

Nurses can positively impact a patient’s lifestyle decisions, which is why RNAO has clearly signaled its concern and has actively advocated on this issue.

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