Dear NYSASN Members:
Do you often wonder how you can help students that are over-weight or obese? As we continue to gather BMI statics, we are unfortunately reminded of this pertinent problem. As you know, childhood obesity can exacerbate respiratory conditions such as asthma, and has long-term medical consequences including a greater risk of hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, gall bladder disease, and osteoarthritis. In addition to physical medical conditions, childhood obesity also has been shown to have important short and long-term psychosocial consequences. These include negative self-image, decreased self-esteem, eating disorders, and lower health-related quality of life. As a school nurse, I have a passion for combating childhood obesity and feel strongly that school nurses can have a direct impact on this epidemic.
In my previous letter, I discussed programs used by nurses in NYC. One program that I would like to share with you is HOP (Healthy Options Program). This program is for students who have a BMI within the 99th percentile and helps fight childhood obesity. A website used to calculate percentile is https://nccd.cdc.gov/dnpabmi/calculator.aspx. A majority of HOP involves counseling and education for students and parents.
When counseling students and parents it is important for them to understand changes do not occur overnight. It is beneficial to counsel children to maintain their weight and not to focus on losing weight. They need to trust the process and believe in themselves to grow through nourishing themselves correctly. There is no need to weigh the students at every visit, discipline and discussion are far more important than numbers. When growing into a healthier body, one needs to remember that not looking for immediate results is key. Change is gradual and the kids should understand that patience and mindful eating will best facilitate this change. The seeds that we plant have the potential to manifest positive change for many communities. Research has shown early intervention is the best strategy to combat this epidemic.
A component of the HOP Program is the 5210 Program. This program is an easy to understand, child-friendly program. For more information please visit: http://www.pamf.org/ynp/5210/kids/. This program highlights the following:
- 5 fruits and vegetable serving/day (frozen is an option)
- 2 total hours of screen time outside of school (do not snack while in front of a screen)
- 1 hour of exercise (add up minutes throughout the day, does not have to be 60 consecutive minutes)
- 0 sugary drinks
An additional counseling and education point is portion control. This can be taught using the MyPlate tool, developed by the USDA. MyPlate is the replacement for the old food pyramid and easily demonstrates proper portions of all food groups. Refer to https://www.choosemyplate.gov for a copy of the diagram and tips on how to eat the recommended amounts from each food group.
In addition to students, it is optimal to get the families involved, as well. I designed a PowerPoint called PACO (Parents Against Childhood Obesity), which I have shown to parents in an effort to provide early intervention. I can share it with you to use at PTA meetings, health fairs, etc. Please email me and let me know if you would like a copy. Thanks for your dedication towards fighting for a healthier tomorrow for our students.
Mary Fitzpatrick, BSN, RN, NCSN