Developing a clinical teaching simulation for healthcare professionals communicating about weight-related topics in spina bifida clinics

Amy C McPherson, PhD. Bloorview Research Institute, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario.


Obesity is a global health concern. Children and youth with disabilities have high rates of obesity, which can affect both their physical health and quality of life. Children with spina bifida are at  higher risk of developing overweight or obesity for a number of reasons, but weight management  is not often talked about in spina bifida clinics. Healthcare professionals have told us that they  worry about talking about weight-related topics, in case they upset children and families. Parents  also said that they were worried that discussing weight will make children feel bad about  themselves. Based on what healthcare professionals, parents and children told us previously about   their experiences of talking about weight in spina bifida clinics, we wrote four scenarios that  described different aspects of communicating about weight in a spina bifida clinic. Using actors,  we videotaped these four scenarios, which can now be used to help train healthcare professionals  to have more positive conversations about weight-related topics with children with spina bifida  and their parents. An application is now being prepared to secure funds to evaluate the videos, to  see how effective they are in improving healthcare professionals’ communication skills and their  confidence when addressing weight-related topics. Up to now, there have been no resources  available to support healthcare professionals in having weight-related discussions with children  with spina bifida and their families. The videos developed in this project fill this gap.