Childhood obesity: prevention practices of nurse practitioners

J Am Acad Nurse Pract. 2006 Feb;18(2):70-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-7599.2006.00105.x.


Purpose: The purposes or this study were to (a) describe the prevention practices of nurse practitioners (NPs) regarding childhood obesity, (b) compare the practices of NPs by specialty, practice setting, and awareness of childhood obesity prevention guidelines, (c) identify relationships between prevention practices and demographic variables of NPs, and (d) examine the resources for and barriers to implementing prevention practices.

Data sources: A convenience sample of 99 family NPs (FNPs) and pediatric NPs (PNPs) from the Intermountain area was used. Participants completed a questionnaire based on documented risk factors for childhood obesity as well as prevention guidelines developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Conclusions: NPs working in family practice or general pediatric practice settings were not consistently using the BMI-for-age index to screen for childhood obesity, as recommended by the AAP. However, they were teaching parents to promote healthy food choices and physical activity in their families. PNPs and FNPs working in a pediatric practice setting and NPs who were aware of prevention guidelines were more likely to perform several prevention strategies than FNPs working in a family practice setting and those who were unaware of guidelines. Major barriers to implementing childhood obesity prevention strategies included parental attitudes, the American lifestyle, and lack of resources for both the NP and the family. The main resources NPs used in preventing childhood obesity were a dietician, journal articles, and Web sites.

Implications for practice: Although the majority of the NPs in this study reported being aware of childhood obesity prevention guidelines (73.7%), most were not consistently using BMI for age or monitoring children at increased risk for obesity. Because childhood obesity is escalating at such a rapid rate, it is critical that NPs working in family practice and pediatric practice settings take the necessary steps to help curtail obesity in childhood, including calculating BMI for age, targeting children at risk, and helping families develop healthy nutrition and physical activity habits. In addition to proper health supervision of children, NPs also need to be advocates in their communities to overcome barriers to childhood obesity prevention.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Child Welfare*
  • Family Nursing / organization & administration*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Middle Aged
  • Nurse Practitioners / education
  • Nurse Practitioners / organization & administration*
  • Nurse Practitioners / psychology
  • Nurse's Role
  • Nursing Assessment
  • Nursing Evaluation Research
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Pediatric Nursing / education
  • Pediatric Nursing / organization & administration*
  • Primary Health Care / organization & administration
  • Primary Prevention / organization & administration
  • Risk Assessment
  • Self-Assessment
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology