Combatting pediatric obesity

July 2, 2018

A College of Community Health Sciences program to help combat childhood obesity was awarded funding this month from BlueCross BlueShield of Alabama. The funding will be used to provide ongoing training for the College’s family medicine residents in addressing pediatric overweight and obesity using a patient-sensitive and family-centered approach. Guest speakers who specialize in pediatric overweight and obesity will be brought in to train residents on how to diagnose pediatric weight issues. The College considers the diagnoses of childhood overweight and obesity critical health issues, and its efforts to address these concerns are conducted through the proposed Think, Eat, Move! Interdisciplinary Clinic housed within University Medical Center (UMC), which is operated by the College.Our intent is to provide nutrition education in our clinics for children and adolescent patients and their parents and caregivers, so they do not enter adulthood with chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes,” says Suzanne Henson, a registered dietitian who directs UMC’s Department of Nutrition Services. Henson is also an assistant professor in the College’s Department of Family, Internal, and Rural Medicine. During a one-year period in 2017, UMC’s family medicine clinic documented the body mass index for age in 64 percent of encounters for patients ages 2 to 18 years and found that 42 percent of the patients were overweight or obese. Ten percent of the documented BMIs for Age were between the 85th and 94th percentile (overweight), and 32 percent were at or above the 95th percentile (obese). BMI-for-Age, as plotted on pediatric growth charts, is a screening method to determine if children and adolescent-aged patients have healthy weights, or if they are overweight or obese. Previous funding for pediatric weight management efforts at UMC sponsored a physician specializing in pediatric weight management for a general session to train the College’s physicians, residents and medical students. Funding also enabled the Department of Nutrition Services to establish a program that brings a produce stand inside UMC, allowing UMC health providers to show patients different ways to incorporate produce into their diets.