LAS VEGAS — U.S. nurse practitioners lag behind physicians on health measures including obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and depression, despite being important role models for patients, according to a speaker at the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners 2015 meeting.

As many as 37% of nurses are overweight, 28% are obese, and 18% report depressive symptoms — nearly twice the rate of the general population — Bernadette Mazurek Melnyk, PhD, RN, CPNP, dean and professor in the college of nursing and chief wellness officer at The Ohio State University said during a keynote session.

“Although we’ve done a great job at teaching people how to take wonderful care of everybody else, we haven’t done a great job of emphasizing healthy behavior for our own profession, and that’s just critical,” Melnyk said. “How seriously are families going to take us if we are not role modeling healthy behavior ourselves?”

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Encouraging four simple behavior changes can cut the incidence of diabetes, heart disease, depression and stress by 50% or more:

  • Physical activity: Engaging in 30 minutes, five days per week
  • Healthy eating: Consuming five fruits and vegetables per day
  • Not smoking
  • Alcohol in moderation: One drink per day for women; two drinks per day for men, defined as a four ounce glass of wine, a 6 ounce beer or 1.5 ounces of liquor.

“Personalized wellness assessments and incentives are important, but by themselves they won’t produce big changes. There has got to be a change in the culture,” Melnyk said. “We have to make healthy choices easy choices to make.”