Who is responsible for assessing children’s weight?: views from health care professionals

Mrs Kamila Davidson1, Dr Helen  Vidgen1, Professor  Elizabeth Denney-Wilson2

1Queensland University Of Technology, Brisbane, Australia, 2The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

Background: Routine assessment of children’s weight status is the first step in identification of overweight and obesity yet currently in Australia there is a lack of clarity with regard to responsibility for the undertaking of this health check.  While the National Health and Medical Research Council “Obesity Guidelines” recommend for primary health care professionals to assess weight status during consultations this does not routinely occur in practice.

This study aimed to determine primary health care professionals’ views on responsibility for routine weight status assessment in primary school aged children.

Methods: Using the case study of a regional town, Rockhampton, purposeful sampling was used to represent the key primary health care settings and professional groups. Interviews were conducted with 31 health professionals. Data were collected and analysed guided by the COM-B framework.

Results: General practitioners and nurses were seen as having a role in weight status assessment.  A number of barriers to assessing and raising weight related concerns were identified and these led to inconsistent raising of the issue with families.  Increasing awareness about the importance of weight status assessment, a systems approach and appropriate referral options were seen as essential for any change to occur.

Discussion: There is a need for long-term commitment from Governments, primary health care settings, professional groups and health professionals to implement the “Obesity Guidelines” if progress is to be made in addressing this important public health problem.


Ms Kamila Davidson is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD) and a PhD Candidate with the School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences.  Her PhD research is exploring the responsibility for assessing weight status of primary school aged children, and how to improve early identification of overweight and obesity.  Kamila previously worked with the PEACHTM project, the largest State trial of a healthy lifestyle program for primary school aged children and with The Health Impact Project, which aimed to improve the health and wellbeing of children aged 0-5 years and their parents. Currently, Kamila is involved with the Nourish: Early Childhood Education project as a research assistant and works as a sessional academic

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