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Communicating with families and clients

Communicating with families and clients2019-08-06T16:20:26+10:00

This section provides strategies:

  • To accurately assess a child’s weight status and identify those above a healthy weight
  • To aid the management of a child who is identified as being overweight or obese
  • To assist in communicating and counselling families about preventing childhood overweight and obesity in an effective and empathetic manner

The 5As approach can be used – Ask, Assess, Advise, Assist, Arrange.


Questions to ask:

Are the family’s/child’s concerns weight-related?

Have there been previous attempts at weight loss, and/or a change in eating or exercise habits?  Has there been success or otherwise?

A detailed history should be taken and include:

  • sleep patterns/problems
  • systemic issues
  • psychosocial or behavioural problems
  • history of type 2 diabetes and overweight/obesity
  • ethnicity – including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Asian, Middle Eastern, Maori/Pacific and South Sea Islander
  • current physical activity/exercise behaviours
  • eating patterns and disordered eating.

Useful resources

Raising the topic of a child’s weight


Tools to assess

Assess weight status and identify children above a healthy weight:

Plot on age and gender specific growth chart child height, weight, weight status:

Assessment of family lifestyle and behaviours, and awareness and attitude of:

  • Diet
  • Satiety/fullness
  • Household meals
  • Food and drink choices
  • Serving sizes
  • Eating out
  • Physical activity and sedentary behaviour
  • Screen time
  • Family routine

Physical examination: acanthosis nigricans, blood pressure, blood tests as appropriate.


  • Use sensitive language, avoid stigmatisation or blaming
  • Use strength-based language, emphasizing health over weight
  • Employ motivational interviewing techniques
  • Focus on choosing healthier food and drink options, and physical activity, as opposed to focusing on weight loss
  • Increase physical activity behaviours and decrease sedentary behaviours, including limiting screen time
  • Consider SMART goals, and an action plan

Useful resources

NSW Healthy kids – advise
NSW Healthy kids for professionals resources
Smart goals
Promoting regular physical activity in children and adolescents


  • Negotiate relevant contextual factors e.g. age, culture, language, disability, expressed need
  • Collaborative goal setting with parents and child, define SMARTER goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, timely, associated emotion and reward)
  • Intervention – Communicate key healthy lifestyle messages to parents and child using best-practice; family focused; frequent contacts
  • Free Australian apps for clients:
    • EasyDietDiary – online diet diary, exercise tracker and nutrient analysis tool
    • CalorieKing – nutrient analysis calculator and diet record tool

Useful resources

Healthy eating habits for children advise – Raisingchildren.net
Videos setting good example, healthy snacks, making healthy foods fun – Raisingchildren.net
Videos shopping, healthy lunchboxes, making dinner – Raisingchildren.net
Healthy drinks – Raisingchildren.net
Promoting regular physical activity in children and adolescents


  • Refer to other health professional(s) as appropriate
  • Refer to the Get Healthy Service
  • Refer to suitable healthy lifestyle program(s) as appropriate
  • Refer to tertiary services (Multidisciplinary Obesity Clinic) within catchment areas
  • Refer to Staff Wellbeing Programs within Hospital and Health Services
  • Health practitioner participation in Project ECHOTM
  • Refer to the Good Start Program