Pediatricians Weigh Children But Need Resources to Adequately Address Childhood Obesity Epidemic

May 18, 2007

While almost all pediatricians report weighing and measuring children at well child visits, many are still not using recently recommended BMI percentile measurements. Many feel they do not have time to address overweight issues well, and that counseling patient and families is not very effective. The results of an American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) 2006 survey of pediatricians will be presented Sunday, May 6th, at the Pediatric Academic Society meeting in Toronto.

“The epidemic of childhood obesity requires clinical, community, policy and educational strategies. Pediatricians can assess overweight in children pretty well, but once they do that, most report that they need more effective tools to be able to address it,” said Jonathan Klein, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of Adolescent Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center and author of the study. “In order to help these children, we need more nutrition and physical activity referral sources and better reimbursement for effective weight management.”

About half of the pediatricians who responded to the survey of 1,600 AAP members said they assess Body Mass Index (BMI) for their patients over 2 years of age, and most think parents want to talk about their children being overweight. Most of the pediatricians say they discuss physical activity and eating fruits and vegetables, but sugar-sweetened beverages, snacks, fast food and the food pyramid are less likely to be topics of conversation. Among pediatricians:

·             38 percent believe counseling is effective

·             21 percent say time constraints get in the way of BMI screening

·             56 percent don’t get reimbursed for counseling about obesity

·             67 percent say they don’t have time for counseling in their practice

·             Only 14 percent can bill insurance for managing overweight separately from well-child visits

·             69 percent say weight management programs are not covered by insurance

“These issues clearly get in the way of these children receiving the care they need to grow into healthy adults,” Klein said.

About 25 million children and adolescents in the United States are overweight or obese. Immediate action is needed to reverse this growing trend. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the increase in the number of overweight children, and their related health and financial problems, are issues every pediatrician faces on a daily basis.

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Heather Hare
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