More health visitors needed to tackle maternal obesity

An increase in the number of health visitors is needed to reduce maternal obesity, a group of cross-party MPs have said.

More health visitors needed to tackle maternal obesity

They also need increased training, as part of a series of changes required if maternal obesity is to be reduced, according to the MPs’ report. 

The All Party Parliamentary Group on a Fit and Healthy Childhood made a total of 67 recommendations, including a number specifically aimed at health visitors and midwives. It followed an investigation into how to tackle the increasing prevalence of overweight women of a reproductive age.

Obesity at this age can impact the health of at least two generations, said the report, launched in June.  

The report said an obstacle to addressing the problem was that the entire maternal service workforce is ‘under-resourced, overstretched, under immense pressure’. It also said the workforce was acutely aware of the negative impact that their gaps in knowledge might have. 

It said there was a lack of confidence and embarrassment of the healthcare professional when faced with raising weight issues with pregnant women.

The report called for an increase in the number of frontline staff, noting there was a ‘significant shortfall’ in the numbers of health visitors and midwives working in the UK. And it recommended that all healthcare professionals working with women and families before, during and after pregnancy should be trained in nutrition, including breastfeeding.

Clear UK guidance on appropriate weight gain during pregnancy was also required.

In addition, the report said healthcare professionals should be able to spend longer with prospective and new parents.

University training should be also be reviewed and healthcare professionals should update their skills regularly as part of continuing professional development, said the report.