Childhood obesity: current literature, policy and implications for practice


Dr Ellen Ben-Sefer, Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery and Health, University of Technology, Sydney, PO Box 222, Lindfield, NSW 2070, Australia; Tel: 61-2-9514-5742; Fax: 61-2-9514-5509; E-mail:


The problem:  In most of the industrialized world, a childhood obesity epidemic is evident, with the numbers rising each year.

Purpose:  To discuss the current literature in relation to childhood obesity and to provide health practitioners, especially nurses, with the fundamental knowledge that is imperative in the recognition of children who are at risk and thereby tailor appropriate interventions.

Method:  Databases that were accessed for current literature included CINAHL, Science Direct and ProQuest. Keywords used in the search included obesity, childhood, health, relevant national statistics, policy and health risks. The literature was confined to the past 10 years with emphasis on the past 5 years. The 50 most pertinent papers from a variety of countries were chosen, and 35 papers that represented key areas of relevance were selected as the basis of this article. This selection of papers dictated the key areas of discussion such as the acknowledged factors in childhood obesity.

Findings:  Although childhood obesity may be related to specific cultural and national circumstances, universal themes emerged from the literature review. These include social factors, exercise, advertising, public policy and the importance of partnerships in policy.

Conclusion:  Any country that has a high rate or increasing rate of childhood obesity must acknowledge core factors that contribute to this serious health problem. Furthermore, public policy and community partnerships that include all health professionals have a responsibility in the prevention of childhood obesity. This can be implemented through education, research and advocacy of all nurses involved with children and families.