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School nurses play key role in tackling childhood obesity, says RCN

The RCN has said that the early intervention of school nurses is key to addressing childhood obesity and has called on the government to compel primary care trusts (PCTs) to address the unacceptable shortage of school nurses.

The RCN's comments follow a conservative party warning that lack of school nurses threatened the success of the Department of Health's recently announced child measurement programme. In this, parents of children who have been weighed and measured in English schools may automatically receive their child's results.

Chief Executive and General Secretary of the RCN, Dr Peter Carter, said: "If we are going to get children onto the right track, if we are going to end this growing obesity problem, PCTs need to recruit the right numbers of school nurses who can identify unhealthy children from an early age and intervene accordingly."

A 2007 census said that there were 3,162 nurses working in schools across England, but the RCN estimates that this number will need to double to properly deal with the issue of childhood obesity.


Related article: Parents will be told if their child is overweight

Do you agree with the RCN? Is early intervention of school nurses key to addressing childhood obesity? Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)

"There are actually even less whole-time equivalent (WTE) school nurses as many are part-time. It is a waste of school nurses' time to weigh and measure children - it won't make them any healthier. Evidence indicates that tackling obesity needs a whole range of public health measures including access to fresh fruit and veg and access to sporting activities. School and practice nurses can contribute their bit by supporting families trying to manage their weight." - Catherine Gleeson, West Yorks

"I feel that investing in more school nurses would be great, and am pleased that the worth of the school nurses is truly being recognised. The rise in obesity is a ppublic health problem and should not just be left to school nurses to deal with. From my experience while the child neasurement programme is one way of collecting statistics. It is flawed as any of the parents of mainly year 6 pupils who are obese opt out of the programme, hence I don't feel the true picture is protrayed. Likewise we should also look at the number of children who are underweight and have poor nutrition and deal with these. Many of theses are in the reception classes in school. School nurses with the help of health visitor and practice nurse collegues need to work together on many of theses issues." - Sheila Munks, Nottingham City