New Initiative Will Offer Obesity Counseling for Families
Children who are struggling with obesity will have an opportunity to participate in a new family-focused counseling program in select pediatric clinics led by the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in the Monroe County region.
Called TEAM UP, the program is a weight management study focused on getting families healthier in four states – New York, Missouri, Illinois and Louisiana. The purpose of this research project is to test different ways to help children and their families lose weight through healthy eating and physical activity.
The program include two components: counseling by a primary care provider focusing on healthy eating and activity habits, and a combination of provider counseling and family-based behavioral treatment for children and parents. The program will run through the end of 2023.
Childhood obesity is a growing public health crisis, and the pandemic has only exacerbated this issue as more children stayed home and physical activity was restricted in the early days of COVID-19.
“This is a program that addresses a need that has been building for more than a decade,” said Stephen Cook, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics at URMC. “Obesity is one of the most common chronic conditions for families and has gotten worse during the pandemic.”
Technology will be a key component of TEAM UP. Applications will track data on physical activity and eating habits, and families will be to participate in counseling sessions through Zoom. “A byproduct of the pandemic is that we found out that Zoom visits made the program more feasible and accessible,” said Cook.
Obesity is one of the most common chronic conditions for families and it's gotten worse during the pandemic.”
– Stephen Cook, M.D., M.P.H.
While many virtual programs have drawbacks in comparison to in-person services, obesity counseling may be better suited for remote implementation due to increased comfort and convenience for families, according to Cook.
“There can be a stigma and shame with obesity,” he said, “often times parents don’t want to go to the weight station at the doctor’s office. In addition, since this program pairs parents and children, there’s less pressure to coordinate schedules to make it to the doctor’s office.”
Family participation will be an important component of TEAM UP, as research has shown that a collective effort is the most effective method to address child obesity. “Obesity is not a personal choice,” Cook says. “Changes can’t be left to the individual, it has to involve the whole family.”
This collective approach has to start as early as possible once the problem has been identified by the pediatrician. Family-wide interventions recommended by TEAM UP counselors could include reducing exposure to screens and spending more time outside, limiting fast food, and engaging in more meal planning. “We find better results with kids when we also see results with parents.”
The following pediatric practices will be participating in the TEAM Up program:
- Brighton Pediatrics
- Elmwood Pediatrics
- Fairport Pediatrics
- Finger Lakes Medical Associates
- Highland Family Medicine
- Irondequoit Pediatrics
- Lewis Pediatrics
- Mendon Pediatrics
- Oak Orchard Health
- Pathway Pediatrics – Trillium Health
- Rochester General Pediatric Associates
- Westside Pediatrics
- UR Medicine Primary Care – North Greece
- UR Medicine Primary Care – Westfall Pediatrics
Families interested in participating in the program are encouraged to contact the pediatric practices listed above if they are a patient. More practices are expected to be added in the coming months.