Overweight prevention in the first year of life
MAASTRICHT, 4 August 2016 – How can child healthcare professionals help prevent young children (0-4 years) from becoming overweight? Which problems do they encounter in this field and how can they improve healthcare? These were the key questions examined in the PhD research carried out by Eveliene Dera-de Bie at Maastricht UMC+.
Obesity is on the rise among children and at an increasingly younger age. At present, 13-15% of children aged two to eighteen are overweight. These children are 80% more likely to stay overweight or become overweight again later in life. Being overweight can lead to serious problems at a young age, including bullying, low self-esteem and performance problems.
Overweight children often develop serious health issues at a later age. One of the primary risk factors is metabolic syndrome, which is paired with an increased risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Early intervention can help prevent serious health problems later in life. Youth health services can play an important role in this. PhD candidate Eveliene Dera-de Bie, who works as a paediatric nurse at Envida, developed a training programme that helps paediatricians and nurses identify the risk of becoming overweight in the first year of life. Discussing this risk with parents is also part of the training programme. Many paediatricians and nurses find it difficult to discuss potential obesity in young children and the lifestyle changes this calls for in parents.
Effects of the training programme
Dera-de Bie also researched the effects of the programme and found that trained professionals were more capable of identifying the risks of obesity. They were also more aware of those risks than professionals who did not follow the training programme. Unfortunately, this programme shows no measurable effects on reducing obesity at a young age. The research period may have been too short for these results to become visible or the parents may not have followed the advice they received from the trained paediatricians and nurses. In practice, it has proven extremely difficult to implement lifestyle changes. In general, parents and their young children find it difficult to resist the temptations of the food industry.
Eveliene Dera-de Bie recently received her PhD from Maastricht University for her dissertation, titled Overweight prevention, starting from birth onwards; an evaluation of the development and effect of a training program for child care practitioners in the Netherlands.