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One in Four British Nurses Is Medically ‘Obese’ — Is It Time For a Serious Change?

You might expect healthcare professionals to practice what they preach. However, research suggests that more than one in four British nurses is medically ‘obese’. 

One study in partnership with the Edinburgh Napier University’s School of Health and Social Care and London South Bank University’s School of Health and Social Care returned these surprising statistics. The results suggested that both nurses and unregistered care workers had the highest levels of obesity among healthcare workers in the UK. 

“Obesity is a global pandemic and healthcare professionals are at the heart of efforts to bring down high levels of obesity among the population,” said co-author of the study, Dr Richard Kyle. “That one in four nurses in England have been found to be obese is deeply worrying, not least because we know that obesity is linked to diseases such as cancer, cardio-vascular disease, and diabetes.”

“This study provides evidence to support urgent action from NHS England and private sector healthcare providers to address high rates of obesity among nurses and, especially, unregistered care workers. It is vital that we redouble our efforts to take care of our healthcare workers who do so much to care for others.”

What’s the Cause?

Healthcare professionals are certain to be well aware of the health risks caused by excessive weight. If you have a BMI of more than 30, you are medically classed as ‘obese’. The NHS guidelines advise that this health concern can lead to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, strokes, and certain types of cancer. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the possible causes.

  • Innutritious Food Options

It doesn’t take a genius to draw a correlation between poor food choices and weight gain. As nurses are always on the go, getting healthy, nutritious food when they need it the most could be difficult. Turning to fast food meals or snacks may seem like the only option for busy professionals. That means that a lack of healthy alternatives could be to blame.

  • Continuous Shift Work

The erratic nature of shift work could be another important factor here. Research into healthcare professionals published in the US National Library of Medicine suggests that regular shift work is associated with an overall higher BMI score. That means that the working hours of these professionals could contribute to their weight problems. 

  • Chronic Stress Levels

Needless to say, a nurse’s day-to-day life is certain to be filled with a wild array of stresses. This problem could be yet another piece of the puzzle. Research from the University of Central London links long-term stress to a higher chance of becoming obese. Since nurses are continuously in a high-pressure environment, their risk of weight gain is also high. 

What’s the Solution?

Finding a solution to this growing problem is never going to be easy. However, there are some steps that healthcare professionals and their employers can take. Let’s take a look at three of the ways in which we can begin to tackle this concern head-on. 

  • Stress Management 

While it’s not always possible to withdraw from a stressful situation, learning management techniques may lessen its effects. Research from Harvard Medical School suggests that mindfulness meditation may help to ease both anxiety and stress. Learning these life-changing skills could have a major impact on the health of all professionals in the UK. 

  • Weight Loss Technology 

Technology could also play a vital role in changing the lives of nurses. The Royal College of Nursing launched the Nursing You app a couple of years ago. Designed by nurses for nurses, the smartphone application helps professionals make smart health choices and gives them advice on how to reach a safe weight. Using apps like this one could make a major difference.

  • Healthy ‘Fast Food’ 

Providing nurses with healthy food while they’re on the go is vital. At Shed, we have launched a range of smart vending solutions stocking healthy ‘fast food’ options. Situated in NHS hospitals, among other locations, the refrigerated machines boast nutritionally balanced meals, snacks, and drinks that are available 24/7. 

That means that both nurses and other healthcare professionals have access to good food when they need it most. While the pilot is currently trialing in Sheffield, it is our aim to provide NHS hospitals and medical centres around the UK with this life-altering technology. Watch this space.

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