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What effect could the ‘diabetic epidemic’ threatening to ‘overwhelm the NHS’ have on the nursing profession?
A headline in ‘i’, daily newspaper recently stated that the National Health Service (NHS) threatens to be overwhelmed by a type two diabetes epidemic affecting children (Gallagher, 2016). The article reports upon the rising incidence of type two diabetes in children and its link to childhood obesity. In common with adults, the condition is associated with complications, but worryingly, these appear to be more aggressive in children (Springer et al., 2013).
Any additional demand upon NHS services has broad implications for healthcare service providers, stakeholders (including patients and carers), policy makers, and, ultimately, adversely affects society in cost to the economy arising from work-days lost through sickness, and spending on treatments and treatment rationing. An increase in the incidence of type two diabetes would, reasonably, reasonably expected to impact upon nursing provision and roles in the long term, for example increasing the demand for diabetic specialist nurses (Murrells et al., 2010; Cole, 2013).
Nurses play a prominent role in health promotion, particularly in primary care contexts such as GP surgeries, community clinics and schools. School nurses are well placed to identify, treat and prevent childhood obesity (Berquist, 2015). Evidence based strategies applied by school nurses in the United States include educating about nutrition, healthy diet and the benefits of exercise, as well as providing psychological and sociological support to students to enable them to make positive health choices (Brackney and Cutshall, 2015). In the UK, the importance of parental education in maintaining children’s weight within a healthy range, and recognition of the adverse effects of obesity, has been partially addressed by the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP), (Public Health England, 2016) which is delivered by school nurses. Analysis of the efficacy of this has demonstrated that, in addition to advising upon implementing weight control strategies (where possible) it is extremely important that nurses aim to bridge the gap between parents’ perceptions of their child’s weight and making behavioural changes to address their child’s weight if necessary.
Berquist, M.J., 2015. Understanding Type 2 Diabetes in Students With Obesity and the Role of the School Nurse. NASN School Nurse, 30(2), pp.81-84.
Brackney, D.E. and Cutshall, M., 2014. Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes Among Youth A Systematic Review, Implications for the School Nurse. The Journal of School Nursing, p.1059840514535445.
Cole, E., 2015. A helping hand for diabetes care: An award-winning diabetes care plan designed to help school staff manage the needs of pupils has been introduced nationwide, writes Elaine Cole. Nursing Standard, 30(11), pp.20-22.
Gallagher, P., 2016a ‘Diabetes epidemic could overwhelm the NHS’. ‘i’ 3rd October, p.11
Murrells, T., Ball, J., Maben, J., Ashworth, M. and Griffiths, P., 2015. Nursing consultations and control of diabetes in general practice: a retrospective observational study. Br J Gen Pract, 65(639), pp.e642-e648.
Public Health England 2016. National Child Measurement Programme Operational Guidance: 2016 [online] available at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/531878/NCMP-Operational-Guidance.pdf accessed 10th October 2016
Springer, S.C., Silverstein, J., Copeland, K., Moore, K.R., Prazar, G.E., Raymer, T., Shiffman, R.N., Thaker, V.V., Anderson, M., Spann, S.J. and Flinn, S.K., 2013. Management of type 2 diabetes mellitus in children and adolescents. Pediatrics, 131(2), pp.e648-e664.
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