Obesity in people with intellectual disabilities: the impact of nurse-led health screenings and health promotion activities.

Background: Obesity appears to be more common among people with intellectual disabilities, with few studies focusing on achieving weight reduction. AIM: Firstly, to follow-up people identified as overweight and obese following special health screening clinics and to determine the actions taken. Secondly, to evaluate the impact of health promotion classes on participants’ weight loss.

Methods: A clinic led by two learning disability nurses was held for all people aged 10 years and over (n = 464) who attended special services within the area of one Health and Social Services Trust in Northern Ireland. In a second study, the nurses organized health promotion classes for 20 people over a 6- or 8-week period.

Findings: The health screen identified 64% of adults and 26% of 10-19-year olds as being overweight or obese. Moreover, those aged 40-49 years who were obese had significantly higher levels of blood pressure. However, information obtained from a follow-up questionnaire sent after 3 months suggested that of the 122 people identified for weight reduction, action had been taken for only 34% of them and only three were reported to have lost weight. The health promotion classes, however, led to a significant reduction in weight and body mass index scores.

Conclusion: Health screening per se has limited impact on reducing obesity levels in this client group. Rather, health personnel such as general practitioners, nurses and health promotion staff need to work in partnership with service staff, carers and people with intellectual disabilities to create more active lifestyles.