Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™ - Champion Spotlight Series - Nurses Obesity Network (NON)
Nurses Obesity Network aims to change the conversation about obesity, among nurses and across the nation
We are pleased to shine the spotlight on the Nurses Obesity Network (NON).
Individual nursing organizations make a powerful impact on the world. Imagine what they can do when they band together as a coalition?
When NON first formed, it was a group of 4 nursing organizations. Today, it contains 10 influential groups, and continues to grow. These associations banded together to alter the way our society views, treats, and advances care for those living with obesity — including nurses. Their work is supported by Novo Nordisk, Inc., a leading global healthcare company focused on diabetes treatment.
Currently with two co-chairs, Loretta T. Lee, PhD, CRNP, FNP-BC, CNE, Associate Professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Nursing, representing the National Black Nurses Association Inc., and Holly Carpenter, BSN, RN, Senior Policy Advisor, working at and representing the American Nurses Association, NON has had an active start. Monthly newsletters, a constantly updated website, a winter webinar and a new advocacy workgroup led by Adrianna Nava, PhD, MPA, MSN, RN, President of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses, are just some of the offerings of this dynamic network.
“Obesity is a chronic disease that requires a full continuum of care,” says Dr. Lee. “There is so much misinformation about obesity. Increasing public awareness of obesity as a condition and not simply a lifestyle choice, we can begin to garner support from policymakers to write policies that improve patient health outcomes, particularly for those from underserved populations. Leveraging our collective voice we can change the way the U.S. treats this condition.”
The primary way NON strives to do this is through distribution of the correct information. Bringing awareness to obesity as a disease can help change the conversation and open people’s minds to looking at obesity differently.
“COVID-19 changed the way we look at how obesity impacts overall health,” Dr. Lee adds. “The pandemic was a catalyst that highlighted how excess weight contributes to other comorbidities, poorer health outcomes, and often premature death.”
NON is hoping to make the obesity conversation less uncomfortable. It’s not someone’s fault. It’s not a personal problem that nurses (and patients) should deal with on their own. Some groups of people, such as Blacks and Hispanics suffer from obesity at higher rates compared to Whites and Asians. According to the CDC, 2022, non-Hispanic Black adults (50%) and Hispanic adults (46%) have the highest age-adjusted prevalence of obesity compared to Whites (41%) and Hispanic Asian adults (16%). These disparities indicate a need to shift our thinking from, “obesity as a lifestyle to obesity as a condition.” But this kind of mindset change only happens with awareness and education.
Nurses as Patients, Caregivers, and Advocates
Nurses often play three simultaneous roles when it comes to the obesity conversation:
- Some nurses are patients themselves who are living with obesity.
- All nurses are caregivers who should strive for compassionate and informed conversations with their patients about obesity.
- And all nurses should be advocates for better obesity care, working to dismantle barriers in treating obesity as a chronic disease with significant health inequities.
“It’s so important for nurses to be role models, advocates, and educators for wellness. And that includes how we, as nurses, interact with obesity,” notes Holly. “Nurses must be able to speak comfortably and knowledgably about obesity and its treatment with patients, especially if we, the nurses, are living with obesity or are overweight.”
As a hub of information, the NON website has various sections of resources and events for each of these 3 roles. To compile the resources, NON holds monthly meetings with group members to discuss what the nursing organizations are doing. Then, they link to relevant resources from the NON website.
Popular resources include:
- The Black Women’s Health Imperative and HealthyWomen’s Reclaim Your Wellness campaign
- Get Strong: A Beginner’s Guide to Strength Training from Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™ (HNHN)
- Health Care Providers and Obesity Care – Fast Fact Sheet from the STOP Obesity Alliance
- Become an Advocate for Better Obesity Care Initiatives from the Obesity Care Advocacy Network (OCAN)
Not only does the NON website provide valuable obesity resources, but it also assists nurses in locating a health care provider for themselves, if needed. The goal is to make sure nurses have ample tools for creating healthy and improved lives for themselves and their patients.
Spreading the Word and Breaking Down Barriers
To raise awareness and increase its audience, NON relies on its member nursing organizations. For example, the American Nurses Association (ANA) and HNHN distribute NON and other obesity information through multiple communication vehicles, including newsletters, articles, blogs, and social media.
“There’s obesity and overweight in the nursing community,” Holly explains. “It affects us and our ability to be models of health for the nation. It impacts our ability to provide care. So, how do we get inspired for positive change?”
That's just one of the pressing questions NON attempts to answer through its education and awareness efforts.
Looking ahead, NON hopes to tackle barriers affecting access to care. Obesity treatment often isn’t easy or attainable. For example, there are obesity medications clinically proven safe and effective, but they’re not reimbursed or covered by most insurance policies. That makes ideal treatment out-of-reach for many people. Breaking down coverage barriers for anti-obesity medications in policies such as Medicare Part D, State Employee Health Plans, and State Medicaid are all important areas to address.
“We recently created an advocacy committee within NON and will be activating member organizations who want to make change at the treatment level,” says Dr. Nava. “We need to make sure we don’t set people up for failure when they finally get the medical care and guidance they need, only to find out they don’t have coverage for the recommended treatment.”
Nursing organizations are powerful, and individual nurses are trusted role models. Nurses can lead the charge for better access to care if they’re given the right tools and information. Through their initiatives, NON seeks to improve the health of nurses and their patients.
Update: In May of 2023, NON and ANA issued a joint position statement, see "Essential Care and Coverage for Those Living with Obesity" here.
Does your organization have any resources on obesity or offer obesity care? Share with us in our discussion.
Not a member of Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation (HNHN) yet? Join us today!