Mental health professionals must do more to tackle childhood obesity

Strategies to help obese children reduce their weight will not
work unless their psychosocial and mental health needs are met too,
a childhood obesity expert has warned.

Dr Andrew Hill, chartered psychologist and senior lecturer in
the academic unit of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Leeds
University School of Medicine, dismissed the idea that the answer
to childhood obesity was simply to eat less and exercise more.

“If it was so easy we wouldn’t be here,” he
told a childhood obesity conference in London last week.
“That simple equation misses out a key thing: the person. We
shouldn’t just focus on children’s physical well-being.
We need to ask them how they are feeling and we need to work with
those who are not feeling good about themselves.”

Hill said the psychosocial status of children was absolutely
integral to any weight management programme. However, he told 0-19
that child and adolescent mental heath services (CAMHS) often
lacked the commitment to work with obese children and their

“There is a reluctance by some mental health professionals
to have an active interest in childhood obesity, and that’s
about capacity, training and familiarity. A lot [of CAMHS]
professionals are not skilled in weight loss management, but they
should have a greater role here and in helping to ameliorate the
distress children and young people suffer and make behavioural

Primary care trusts should be delivering speciality services for
obese children, he said, and practice nurses could be “key
players here in identifying and referring children on”.

Hill said the government had moved the issue of childhood
obesity up the talking agenda, but not high enough up the
“doing agenda”, adding that the public health white
paper published last year was “all talk and no

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