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CPD module: It’s time to tackle obesity

CPD module: It’s time to tackle obesity

Jenny Aston explains how serious the obesity issue is and explores what healthcare professionals can do to tackle the problem

Obesity has an impact on many different aspects of physical health, including cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal, respiratory and gastrointestinal conditions, as well as diabetes and cancer. Mental health issues can also be linked to obesity, whether it be low mood or anxiety leading to overeating, or poor body image, bullying, social isolation and depression caused by being overweight.

This learning module will update healthcare professionals on supporting patients with weight management issues, when to refer to appropriate weight management services, and how to actively tackle obesity in your practice.

Some issues related to obesity can be modified, others cannot. It helps to understand this and to be able to offer targeted support, especially in those areas where weight loss can improve health outcomes. Although we cannot do anything about genetics or ethnicity, we can make individuals aware that they may find it harder to maintain a healthy weight.

Taking some time to explore a patient’s attitude to food can be useful. The question, ‘Do you live to eat or eat to live?’ can be a useful starting point. Similarly, ‘Do you enjoy food?’; ‘Do you have a sweet tooth?’; ‘Do you comfort eat?’ can help gain insight.

It is also worth examining and possibly challenging our own attitude to overweight or obese people. Being aware of this can help avoid an unhelpful or judgemental approach.  

A useful Public Health England (PHE) toolkit called ‘Let’s talk about weight’ sets out quick and simple interventions to offer support to patients.9 

It recommends a three-step approach:

Ask: Many patients actually want help with weight issues, but we may miss the opportunity if we don’t ask. 

Advise: It is helpful to tell patients what their weight and BMI are, and explain what this means. They may wish to do nothing, but equally may value the opportunity to have some help with managing their weight.

Assist: It is important to be familiar with your local obesity care pathway, so you are aware of the weight management services available in your area and the referral criteria and process. 

Key points

  • Obesity is clearly a major health and societal issue that healthcare professionals have a crucial role in tackling
  • By normalising weight assessment as part of any patient encounter, many more patients can be offered and referred to weight management support
  • Simple approaches to providing weight management support can improve patients’ health outcomes and reduce the burden on health care in the future


Jenny Aston is an advanced nurse practitioner working at a practice in Greater Cambridge

Finding this module

The full module can be found on the Nursing in Practice Learning website.

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Advanced practitioner Jenny Aston explains how serious the obesity issue is and explores what healthcare professionals can do to tackle the problem