Date of Conferral



Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)




Diane Whitehead


People living with mental disorders (PLWMDs) are at an increased risk for developing obesity due to poor diet, physical inactivity, and antipsychotic medications. In the United States, the general-population obesity rate is 36% compared to more than 50% for PLWMDs. Mental health professionals (MHPs), focused on addressing psychiatric conditions, seldom recognize and clinically manage obesity. Furthermore, this population is socioeconomically disadvantaged with poor dietary habits while consuming psychiatric medications that stimulate hunger, further exacerbating the risk for obesity. The Promoting Action on Research Implementation in Healthcare Services (PARISHS) framework guided this quality improvement project to improve obesity awareness and management for PLWMD at a large state psychiatric hospital. An evidence-based education intervention was implemented to positively impact obesity awareness and clinical management or MHPs. The evaluation used a validated instrument with a pre- and posttest design. Paired t test was used to analyze multiple constructs from the MHP participants (N = 50). Overall, the pretest indicated 76% of MHPs were not involved in helping obese PLWMDs manage their weight; however, the posttest data (at 90-days) revealed that 90% were involved in this activity. This represents a positive shift in obesity perceptions and management knowledge. Future research needs to evaluate the impact of the perceptions on process measures and clinical outcomes. This project led to positive social change as MHPs are more likely to address obesity in PLWMD due to their increased awareness and knowledge. This project has broader implications as the program can be duplicated in other psychiatric hospitals.

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