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Management of weight is an integral part of most nursing practice. Nursing staff provide a key role in identifying those at risk from weight gain and offering advice and support

Obesity is a growing concern across the UK. In 2007 the Foresight report, Tackling obesities concluded that half the UK population could be obese by 2050. In 2014 the National Obesity Forum stated that these estimates could in fact be optimistic. It is difficult to assess the specific effect of obesity on mortality and morbidity however, we do know that it is a contributory risk factor to general morbidity and premature death.

Nursing you

Nursing You has been developed as part of the Healthy Weight Initiative for Nurses (WIN) and is designed to help nurses make healthy choices at work and maintain a healthy weight. 

The World Health Organization's definition of obesity is a Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than or equal to 30.

The BMI is the most used measure for adults in the UK. It is the same for both sexes and across all ages and as such provides the most useful population-level indicator of overweight (BMI of 25 or above) and obesity. However, it should only be used as a guide and does not account for muscle mass or for fat distribution which varies between individuals. In children and adolescents the British 1990 growth reference charts are used to classify the weight status of children according to their age and sex because the BMI will vary depending on these factors.

NHS choices provide a useful tool for measuring obesity.

Health problems associated with morbid obesity may include: 

  • hypertension
  • heart disease
  • raised cholesterol levels
  • type 2 diabetes
  • respiratory problems
  • gastroesophageal reflux
  • urinary stress incontinence
  • degenerative arthritis
  • cancer
  • skin infections
  • sleep disturbance
  • infertility.

There are also serious psychological and social repercussions from being overweight or obese. 

Useful resources

Public Health England Obesity

The PublicHealth England (PHE) Obesity website (formerly the National Obesity Observatory) provides information on data, evaluation, evidence and research related to weight status and its determinants.

There are briefing papers on obesity.

From April 2013 local responsibility for the prevention and management of obesity transferred from PCTs to local authorities.

Public health NICE guidance

National Child Measurement Programme

The National Child Measurement Programme is a sub section of the Public Health England Obesity Knowledge and Intelligence team website. The Obesity Learning centre provides information and resources for those working to help tackle obesity and to provide a forum to share good practice.

RCN resources

Nursing You has been developed as part of the Healthy Weight Initiative for Nurses (WIN) and is designed to help nurses make healthy choices at work and maintain a healthy weight.  

Nutrition and hydration clinical topic.

The RCN has also worked with the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) to develop resources to support the ‘Introductory certificate in obesity, malnutrition and health’. The course includes workbook, which includes a link to the RCGP online resource. The workbook is divided into six workshops.

Other resources