School nurses and childhood obesity: An investigation of knowledge and practice among school nurses as they relate to childhood obesity

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Background: Childhood obesity has escalated to an alarming proportion in the last twenty years. It is currently the most preventable nutritional disease of the 21st century. Anecdotal literature suggests that school nurses play a pivotal role in the fight against the escalating incidence of childhood obesity. However, research has not clearly shown that school nurses engage in health promotion behaviors that combat childhood obesity. Methods: A convenience sample of 103 New Jersey school nurses who attended county school nurses association meetings were surveyed. A 55-item tool was used to measure school nurses' knowledge and practice regarding childhood obesity. Results: While ninety-nine percent of the nurses are aware that childhood obesity is becoming more prevalent, more than 35% of the school nurses reported a lack of competence in recommending weight-loss programs for children. More than 65% rated using age-specific BMI to calculate childhood obesity sometimes, rarely, or never. Conclusions: Data from this study indicates that New Jersey school nurses are knowledgeable regarding childhood obesity, yet many do not report levels of competence in recommending weight-loss treatment to promote healthy lifestyle choices for their students. Further research is needed to understand the barriers to health promotion practices among school nurses.

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Comprehensive Child and Adolescent Nursing

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