Lambeth Council has been implementing a healthy weight programme to address child obesity – and as part of that a specialist healthy weight school nurse post has been created. This case study forms part of our resource on the National Child Measurement Programme.
The full-time role works with those children identified as being severely overweight or overweight and particularly vulnerable during the NCMP process in the London borough. The nurse tailors support around the specific needs of the individual child, parent and family.
Council Public Health Consultant Bimpe Oki said: “We have a number of weight intervention programmes, spanning both preventative as well as treatment services, but for some children it might not be as simple as making a referral.
“For example, we had a recent case of a boy who was looked after by a single dad. His dad worked so his gran would pick him up from school and look after him. She didn’t want to feed him his evening meal because the family thought it was important that the dad and son ate together. So she gave him snacks.
“If we had referred him on to a weight management course he would not have gone as his gran needed to care for the boy’s granddad. The nurse worked with the family and they started changing their habits, going to the park after school and cutting back on the high sugar snacks. It made a big difference.”
Around 500 children are identified as being in this at-risk group each year, although the specialist nurse is only able to work with about half of them. The other school nurses feed into the process. If they are aware of someone with particular vulnerabilities, such as other health conditions or family difficulties such as a bereavement or domestic violence, they flag that up to the specialist nurse.The specialist nurse also goes into schools and meets with parents at coffee mornings and parents evenings to promote the work she does.Ms Oki said: “It has worked really well over the years. I think what it recognises is that one-size does not fit all. You have to tailor your approach for some children and families and the specialist nurse role allows us to do just that. Without that we would see lots more families slip through the gaps. If we had the funding we would like to help more children like this.” Those not supported by the specialist nurse can be referred on to the healthy weight management programmes. Lambeth runs a tier one, two and three service. The tier three service is for children with complex social and/or medical needs works one-on-one with them and their families
“It takes a holistic and family-centred approach. They really get to know the families and some of the complexities which can lead to an unhealthy weight. Often the obesity is just a symptom of something else. A lot of the work is done in the first 12 weeks, but the support can go on for much longer,” added Ms Oki.
Public Health Consultant