Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Leading Nursing Journal Explores the Increasing Rates of Obesity and the Critical Role of Nurses in Preventing Intergenerational Obesity

Washington, DC – July 19, 2016 – During the past 30 years, obesity rates in the United States have soared, especially among children and adolescents. Recent research suggests that women who are overweight or obese during pregnancy may pass health complications to the fetus, thus initiating a cycle of intergenerational obesity.  As frontline health care providers, nurses have the opportunity to make a lasting impact on the health of future generations through their support and care for women who are overweight or obese.

In “The Intergenerational Cycle of Obesity and its Implications for Nursing Care of Childbearing Women,” Molly C. Purnell and Meredith A. MacKenzie, PhD, RN, CRNP, CNE, explore the role of nurses in preventing intergenerational obesity by examining current research about the long-term impact of the prenatal environment and consequences of obesity. Their findings were published in the June/July 2016 issue of Nursing for Women’s Healththe clinical practice journal of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses.

When a woman is obese or overweight, internal patterns related to body composition, fat metabolism and storage, and glucose tolerance can significantly affect her fetus during pregnancy. These women have a higher risk of problems related to processing nutrients during pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes. Other complications include faster fetal development, which leads to a higher weight and Body Mass Index (BMI), and a predisposition to certain behaviors and preferences for foods with high sugar and fat contents. The prenatal environment not only affects the woman’s children directly but also affects her grandchildren and future descendants as these traits are passed on.

Nurses are in a unique position to support women and educate them about actions they can take to prevent an ongoing intergenerational cycle of obesity. The authors identified three factors that should be taken into account as nurses provide care to women of childbearing age: diet, physical activity and breastfeeding.

By helping women adopt healthful behaviors, nurses can play a key role in reducing the risk for intergenerational obesity. Interventions that promote these behaviors should ideally begin prior to conception and continue throughout the pre- and postnatal period. Women are most likely to alter their health behaviors during the prenatal period if they believe the changes will positively impact the fetus.

“As rates of childhood obesity have doubled in the last three decades, nurses play a vital role in educating women and supporting them to become healthier,” said AWHONN’s CEO Lynn Erdman, MN, RN, FAAN. “Understanding the intergenerational cycle of obesity and its influencing factors can help nurses effectively intervene to promote health of future generations.”

For media interviews, contact:
Kelly Mack for AWHONN


About Nursing for Women’s Health
Nursing for Women’s Health is a bimonthly refereed clinical practice journal of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses. The journal circulates to more than 25,000 nurses who care for women and newborns and is available online at http://nwhjournal.org.

Since 1969, the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) has been the foremost authority promoting the health of women and newborns and strengthening the nursing profession through the delivery of superior advocacy, research, education, and other professional and clinical resources. AWHONN represents the interests of 350,000 registered nurses working in women’s health, obstetric, and neonatal nursing across the United States. Learn more about AWHONN at www.awhonn.org.