Obesity in pre-school children: Issues and challenges for community based child health nurses

Anne McKey
Royal New Zealand Plunket Society, Wellington, New Zealand

Annette Huntington
Associate Professor in Nursing, School of Health Sciences, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand

PP: 145 - 151


Childhood obesity is becoming a topical issue in both the health literature and the popular media and increasingly child health nurses are observing preschool children who appear to be disproportionately heavy for their height when plotted on standardized growth charts.

In this paper literature related to childhood obesity in New Zealand and internationally is explored to identify current issues, and the implications of these issues for nurses in community based child health practice are discussed. Themes that emerged from the literature relate to the measurement of obesity, links between childhood and adult obesity and issues for families. A theme in the literature around maternal perception was of particular interest. Studies that investigated maternal perceptions of childhood obesity found that mothers identified their child as being overweight or obese only when it imposed limitations on physical activity or when the children were teased rather than by referring to individual growth graphs.

The implications for nursing in the area of child health practice is discussed as nurses working in this area need an understanding of the complex and often emotive issues surrounding childhood obesity and an awareness of the reality of people's lives when devising health promotion strategies.


child health; early childhood obesity; body mass index; maternal perceptions; media representations

View references


Baughcum, A.E., Chamberlin, L.A., Deeks, C.M., Powers, S.W. & Whitaker, R.C. (2000). Maternal perceptions of overweight preschool children. Pediatrics, 106(6), 1380-1386.

Binkin, N.J., Yip, R., Fleshood, L. & Trowbridge, F.L. (1988). Birth weight and childhood growth. Pediatrics, 82(6), 828-834.

Cole, T.J., Bellizzi, M.C., Flegal, K. M. and Dietz, W.H. (2000). Establishing a standard definition for child overweight and obesity worldwide: international survey. BMJ, 320, 1-6.

Dorosty, A.R., Emmett, P.M., Cowin, I.S., Reilly, J.J. & the Avon Longitudinal Study of Pregnancy and Childhood Study Team (2000). Factors associated with early adiposity rebound. Pediatrics, 105(5), 1115-1118.

Ebbling, C.B., Pawlak, D.B. & Ludwig, D.S. (2002). Childhood obesity: public-health crisis, common sense cure. Lancet,360, 473-82.

Jain, A., Sherman, S.N., Chamberlin, L. A., Carter, Y., Powers, S.W. & Whitaker, R.C. (2001).Why don't low-income mothers worry about their preschoolers being overweight? Pediatrics, 107(5), 1138-1146.

King, A. (2003).Address to the Childhood Obesity Symposium, September 2003. Retrieved from http://www.beehive.govt.nz/PrintDocument.cfm?DocumentID=17723 on 11.5.04.

Lockett, C. (2003). Carry that weight. The Listener (NZ), 29 Nov 03, 16 - 21.

Ministry of Health (1996). Well child/Tamariki ora national schedule. Wellington: Author.

Ministry of Health (2003a). Health Eating, Healthy Action: A background. Wellington: Author.

Ministry of Health (2003b). Nutrition and the burden of disease: New Zealand 1997-2011.Wellington: Author.

New Zealand Herald (2003a). How to tell if your child is overweight. 23.04.03. Retrieved from http://www.nzherald.co.nz/storyprint.cfm?storyID=3450820, on 26/4/03.

New Zealand Herald (2003b). 'Fat tax' suggested in Australia. Article printed in New Zealand Herald Newspaper, 10.6.03.

Ong, K.K.L., Ahmed, M.L., Emmett, P.M., Preece, M.A., Dunger, D.B. & the Avon Longitudinal Study of Pregnancy and Childhood Study Team (2000). Association between postnatal catch-up growth and obesity in childhood: prospective cohort study. British Medical Journal, 320(7240), 967-971.

Parsons, T.J., Power, C. & Manor, O. (2001). Fetal and early life growth and body mass index from birth to early adulthood in 1958 British cohort: longitudinal study. British Medical Journal, 323(7325), 1331-1335.

Stettler, N., Zemel, B.S., Kumanyika, S. & Stallings, V.A. (2002). Infant weight gain and childhood overweight status in a multicenter, cohort study. Pediatrics, 109(2), 194-199.

Tyrell, V.J., Richards, G.E., Hofman, P., Gillies, G.F., Robinson, E. & Cutfield, W.S. (2001). Obesity in Auckland school children: a comparison of the body mass index and percentage body fat as the diagnostic criterion. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders, 25(2), 164-169.

Wabitsch, M. (2000). Overweight and obesity in European children: definition and diagnostic procedures, risk factors and consequences for later health outcome. European Journal of Pediatric, 159 (9), S8-13.

Westfall, U.E. (2000). Nutritional Problems. In S.M. Lewis, M.M. Heitkemper and S.R Dirkson. (5th ed). Medical-Surgical Nursing: assessment and management of clinical problems. Mosby, St. Louis, pp. 1038-1079.

Wong, D.L., Hockenberry-Eaton, M., Wilson, D., Winkelstein, M.L., Ahmann, E. & Divito-Thomas, P.A. (1999). Whaley and Wong: Nursing care of infants and children. St Louis: Mosby.

Wright, C.M., Parker, L., Lamont, D. & Craft, A.W. (2001). Implications of childhood obesity for adult health: findings from thousand families cohort study. British Medical Journal, 323(7324), 1280-1284.

RSS Facebook Twitter

Sign Me Up for latest release updates

*  Email Address:
    First Name:
    Last Name:
*  I am interested in::


Web Feed

Latest Articles

Special Issues

Advances in Contemporary Health Care for Vulnerable Populations
Volume 42/1
Summary | Contents

Advances in Contemporary Community & Family Health Care (3rd edn)
Volume 41/1
Summary | Contents

Advances in Contemporary Complex Health Care: Nursing Interventions
Volume 40/2
Summary | Contents

Advances in Contemporary Community and Family Health Care (2nd edn)
Volume 40/1
Summary | Contents

Advances in Contemporary Nurse Education (2nd edn)
Volume 38/1-2
Summary | Contents

Advances in Contemporary Indigenous Health Care (2nd edn)
Volume 37/1
Summary | Contents

Advances in Contemporary Nursing: Workforce and Workplaces
Volume 36/1-2
Summary | Contents

Advances in Contemporary Modeling of Clinical Nursing Care
Volume 35/2

Advances in Contemporary Mental Health Nursing (2nd edn)
Volume 34/2
Summary | Contents

Advances in Contemporary Nursing and Gender
Volume 33/2
Summary | Contents

Advances in Contemporary Nurse Education
Volume 32/1-2
Summary | Contents

Advances in Contemporary Nursing: History of Nursing and Midwifery in Australasia
Volume 30/2
Summary | Contents

crossref.org - The citation linking backbone

Website by Arrowsmith Websites. Website Design Sunshine Coast, Australia.