Promoting Healthy Eating and Physical Activity for a Healthier Nation

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Introduction

This assignment will look at the development of a health promotion tool to assist in the delivery of healthy eating goals to tackle health problems related to poor nutrition and food choices taken by people with mild to moderate learning disabilities who live in supported accommodation.

During a placement which was based in an NHS Continual Health bungalow, it became apparent to the author that over 50 percent of the service users were obese. The author checked the weight charts of service users and confirmed that 12 of 20 service users were clinically obese and their weight was slowly increasing over time. Only 3 of the service users undertook regular weekly exercise.

The menu planning was the responsibility of staff which resulted in the service users having no participation into the food which they consumed. The menu choices chosen by the members of staff were often nutritionally poor, mainly consisting of high calorie cheap foods, and lacked an alternative option. There were very few meals per week which included fresh vegetables, and the staff admitted on questioning that often the service users would not eat any vegetables accompanying meals, so such choices had been cut from menus. Similarly, a number of service users said that they did not feel encouraged to eat healthy foods and would just eat what was given to them.

Although consideration was given for each menu planned, a healthy balanced diet was not finalised and staff tended to be reactive to service users’ preferences rather than proactive to service users’ health needs. The author believes this was one of the factor's resulting in the service users being overweight and underactive.

Service users are at risk of weight problems or poor nutrition as they do not make their own food choices, it is vitally important that their immune system is bolstered by a balanced diet, not only to maintain their weight, but also to fight disease and other medical problems.

Service users have the same health needs as the general population, however their conditions which often leave them less socially aware bring extra health needs. A lack of regular exercise in gyms or leisure centres, or other social settings, can be owing as much to poor socialisation skills as to weight problems. If service users are inactive and therefore not burning calories at the same rate as the more active general population then it is all the more important that their calorie intake is from nutritionally balanced foods.

Throughout this essay the author will discuss health and health promotion, and explain the importance of health promotion plus the barriers faced by a person who has a learning disability when accessing health promotion. The rationale of choosing 5 a day and healthy eating will be provided along with the strategy for developing the tool. The development and evaluation of the tool will be discussed alongside recommendations for practice.

Learning Disability Defined

The Department of Health (DOH 2001) defined learning disability as a person having a considerably decreased ability to grasp new or complex information and to learn new skills. This also coincides with the ability to function independently; it is diagnosed before adulthood and has an effect on the person's development. Whilst it is not the sole defining feature of a learning disability, an IQ test will often be done to identify whether someone has a learning disability: if the person scores less than 70 then they are defined as having a learning disability; If the score is between 50-69 this would show that the person has a mild learning disability; 35-49 a severe learning disability; and 20-34 profound learning disabilities (Gates 2007).

The success of the tool depends on service user interaction and understanding, and a willingness to actively make food choices. It is therefore aimed at service users with a mild to moderate learning disability, although the concurrent...
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