In the community, nurses serve an important role in the fight against childhood obesity. In the community setting, a nurse is able to assess the preexisting knowledge of a child and their family. They are also able to follow a family over a long period of time than is allotted in the pediatrician’s office or hospital. Most children only see their nurses in the pediatrician’s office once a year. If it is a hospital admission in which the nurse is seeing that child, the nurse may never see that child ever again. Thus, community nurses have an advantage over other nurses because they are able to witness the child and his or her family outside of the hospital, a doctor’s office, or school. They can assess the knowledge of a child and their families, which may involve a child’s increasing BMI. The community nurse can then educate the family, help them make adjustments to their lifestyles, and follow-up with the family more readily compared to a school or hospital nurse.
The community nurse must understand that there are many variables influencing the prevalence of childhood obesity. Some of these factors are race and ethnicity, environmental influences, parental knowledge, and dietary habits. “According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), increases in childhood obesity were particularly marked in Mexican American and African American children” (Berkowitz & Borchard, 2009, p.2). Also:
The literature cites numerous environmental factors that are likely to affect an individual’s ability to effectively sustain health behaviors. Individual financial means to acquire healthy foods, as well as the distance individuals live from both healthy and unhealthy food sources undoubtedly play a role in the maintenance of healthy dietary habits. (Berkowitz & Borchard, 2009, p.3)
Parental influence also has a huge impact a child’s BMI. Thus the nurse must recognize that addressing the issue of childhood obesity in the community should not only target the children, but also their caregivers. The greatest level of success will come from a family based approach and intervention. The nurse should recognize that she will have more success in her approach is she targets the overall community. The nurse must be able to analyze the community she is trying to influence. As well as recognize factors that will affect the outcome of the intervention. The appropriateness of whichever program she decides to implement is key in making sure the outcome is successful. For example, if she is working in community with a low socioeconomic status she should recognize that healthy foods may be harder to obtain for these families than unhealthy foods. Therefore, she must be sure to do her research before devising a plan of action, like a thorough community assessment.
One major way of addressing childhood obesity in the community is through prevention. In their research Berkowitz and Borchard (2009) came across literature which made recommendations for...