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The demand and supply of nutritional advice and guidance in Scottish family planning services
  1. Sophie Tessier, BSc, MSc, Research Nutritionist1,
  2. Susan E Morris, BAEcon, MSc, PhD, RPHNutr, Lecturer2 and
  3. Michael EJ Lean, MA MD, FRCP, Professor of Human Nutrition3
  1. Department of Human Nutrition, University of Glasgow, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Glasgow, UK
  2. Department of Applied Social Science, University of Stirling, Stirling, UK
  3. Department of Human Nutrition, University of Glasgow, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Glasgow, UK


Recent changes to the health services have led to an increased provision of clinical care in family planning clinics. While some women may only require contraceptive services, others may demand advice on a breadth of lifestyle issues, including diet and nutrition. Obesity affects 17% of women of childbearing age in Scotland and being overweight during pregnancy has significant health risks.

A postal survey of 227 nurses identified as working in family planning clinics in Scotland was conducted in 1998. After a mail shot and one reminder, a net response rate of 64% (n = 145) was achieved. Overall, it was found that obesity was perceived as the most extensive problem in women of childbearing age. Seventy nurses (48%) reported that, in addition to offering family planning services, they gave dietary advice 'frequently' or 'always' to their clients without being asked. There were differences in nutrition-related activities in consultations between nurses offering family planning services only and those who routinely offered nutritional advice. Over half (61%) of the nurses reported that they would give advice regarding weight management even if the patients were not seeking help, although there was no significant difference between the two comparison groups. In some cases, the nutritional advice offered to clients highlighted a deficit in training.

Most nutrition education came from diploma and/or training courses and scientific literature, followed by 'experience'. Those nurses already embracing a nutritional advice and guidance role were more interested in further nutrition training (p = 0.018) than the other nurses. However, overall, 67% of the nurses wished to train further in nutrition and weight management.

The findings suggest that family planning nurses should be supported to develop nutritional advice and guidance skills, and that there is a pressing need for training in public health nutrition and weight management for nurses working in family planning services.

  • health professionals
  • health services
  • nutrition
  • postal surveys

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