Lehigh University
Lehigh University

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Obesity Counseling in America

Medical providers are apparently better at providing advice to obese children than those who are at risk for becoming obese. And, they give that advice more often to children from higher income families.

These are the findings from the first study to examine obesity related counseling to adolescents over an extended period of time from Chad Meyerhoefer of Lehigh University; Lan Liang of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; and Justin Wang of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Published in Pediatrics this month, the researchers reviewed data from the 2001-2007 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey of adolescents 11 to 17 years old who reported at least one health provider visit in the previous 12 months.

Children are considered obese if their body mass index (BMI) is greater than the 95th percentile of historical BMI distribution, determined before the current obesity epidemic.  Children are overweight if their BMI is between the 85th and 95th percentile. Current clinical guidelines recommend that health care providers evaluate a pediatric patient’s diet and activity levels at each well child visit, and counsel children in the obese and overweight BMI range to improve their diet and increase their level of physical activity. 

In their study, Meyerhoefer, Liang and Wang found that both obese boys and girls were more likely to be advised to eat healthy and exercise more than normal weight adolescents. However, overweight boys and girls were counseled at a much lower rate than those who were obese.

“The findings are important because obesity is easier to prevent than to treat, and overweight children are most at risk of becoming obese,” said Meyerhoefer from Lehigh University. “Physician counseling for those that are at-risk is most likely to result in positive behavioral change.”
 
To read the full study, visit the journal Pediatrics.

Story by Jennifer Tucker

Posted on Monday, June 04, 2012

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