Nurses to fight youth obesity

Nurses to fight youth obesity

HUNTER parent and health groups have backed interstate calls for school-based nurses to combat a rise in student health problems such as obesity and mental illness.

It follows a West Australian Council of State School Organisations’ bid to its government to employ a full-time community health nurse at every public school.

Most Hunter schools that the Newcastle Herald contacted do not have school nurses.

However, administration staff are trained in first aid.

Newcastle and Lake Macquarie P&C District Council spokeswoman Clarice Hamling said if not at every school, having one or two nurses allocated to a school district would be a good initiative.

Nurses could assist with immediate health needs, and also education.

‘‘They could go around promoting health information,’’ Mrs Hamling said.

‘‘It would just be beneficial to the kids if it was brought in.’’

NSW School Nurses Association president Sue Peterie said a nurse was employed at The Hunter Orthopaedic School.

Throughout the state, nurses tended to be employed mostly in independent, Catholic and special-needs schools.

In Victoria, nurses were also employed in public schools, she said.

Mrs Peterie said school-based nurses did health assessments, were involved with community nurses in immunisation programs, and conducted health education.

Adolescent needs often centred around mental health, she said.

‘‘I think it can help in the early identification of such issues,’’ Mrs Peterie said.

Childhood obesity was another matter for attention.

A NSW Education Department spokesman said government schools in the Hunter Region did not directly employ nurses.

NSW government schools provided guidance about healthy lifestyles and diet through their curriculum, canteen policy and work with parents.

Student welfare programs and counselling was available to support mental well-being.

Schools also worked closely with several agencies to cater for students with high healthcare needs.

‘‘A variety of healthcare professionals provide that additional support as appropriate,’’ the spokesman said.