Weight can be a touchy issue and nobody wants to make a child feel uncomfortable about his or her weight. But promoting healthy diets and exercise need to start early on in life.
A recent study of 17,808 children and adolescents found health care professions might be missing a chance to diagnose overweight and obese kids and educate them on healthy eating and exercise. A total of 34 percent were found to be overweight or obese.
“Extremely obese children have higher, but still insufficient, rates of diagnosis and health education. Nutrition and exercise education are not prevalent throughout all age groups,” said authors.
Maya Leventer-Roberts, MD, MPH, practicing pediatrician in New York City, led a small team to investigate links between obesity and health education.
For the study, 17,808 patients aged 2-18 from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey and National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey from 2005-2008 were reviewed.
Researchers analyzed the data about the diagnosis of obesity including health education.
Factors considered for the diagnostic variable were: what type (specialty) of physician did the diagnosis and whether or not high body mass index (BMI) was diagnosed during a well child visit (WCV).
Factors considered for health education included: nutrition, exercise and weight loss.
BMI is the calculation of kilograms of body weight divided by a person’s height in meters squared.
A normal BMI is between 18.5-24.9, overweight is between 25.0-29.9, obese is between 30.0-39.9 and extremely obese is 40.0 and above.
Of the 17,808, 6 percent were extremely obese, 13 percent were obese and 15 percent were overweight.
Researchers noted the highest percentages of obesity were found in older children, black and Hispanic children.
Authors said, “Diagnosis and weight reduction education were higher among children with an extreme BMI. Nutrition and exercise education were not correlated with severity of obesity.
Higher levels of obesity did not indicate diagnosis or health education during a WCV, but was more likely to occur in a non-WCV.
Authors said health care professionals might be relying on the visual aspects of obesity to drive obesity prevention, rather than actual diagnosis and patient education.
Author recommended WCV as a good time to discuss healthy body weight and healthy lifestyle practices.
This study was published in December in the International Journal of Obesity.