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Keywords:

  • maternal and child health;
  • nurses;
  • overweight children;
  • primary health care

Abstract

Title. Raising issues about children’s overweight – maternal and child health nurses’ experiences.

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study carried out to describe maternal and child health nurses’ experiences of communicating and raising issues with parents about children’s overweight.

Background.  Children's overweight and obesity are rapidly increasing in many countries around the world. Maternal and child health nurses are in a unique position to influence parents, but studies of their experiences in communicating with parents about overweight are lacking.

Method.  Ten maternal and child health nurses in culturally diverse rural and urban areas in Melbourne, Australia, were interviewed in 2007. Data were analysed using qualitative content analysis to identify key categories.

Findings.  During the analysis, eight categories were identified. In summary, nurses described it as difficult to raise weight issues, especially if parents were overweight themselves. The growth chart was felt to be an essential tool in discussions about weight and nurses often described themselves as holding ‘expert’ roles in conversations. Denial, defensiveness and excuses about children being overweight were common reactions among parents and were described as difficult to deal with. However, a strong nurse–parent relationship was experienced as facilitating conversations about weight.

Conclusion.  Raising issues about weight can be difficult, especially if parents are overweight themselves. Further research in communications is needed to understand and approach parents better – especially overweight parents – about their children’s weight. Interventions involving patient-centred approaches in this context have potential, but the area is still relatively unexplored. Maternal and child health centres could be important contributors in such future interventions.