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Doctors Not Discussing Overweight Kids

Recently, UNC Health Care released a study examining whether or not parents of overweight children remember being told by their doctor that their child was overweight.  Not surprisingly, only 25 percent of parents remember having this conversation with their doctor.

There are many reasons why parents may not remember this conversation with their doctor. 

1. First and foremost, the physician is likely not addressing the issue of the child being overweight due to lack of time with the patient and parent to really discuss the issue appropriately.

2. Secondly, many times kids that are overweight are being teased at school or by family members and are very sensitive to any mention of their weight, making it a very difficult issue to address. Compounding the issue, many physicians are not trained in how to talk to parents about weight problems, so some physicians may feel that it will cause more harm than good to address the issue.

3. Thirdly, this is not an easy solution to an easy to fix problem. Helping a family take steps toward a healthier lifestyle requires education, counseling and support. It takes years for a child to become overweight and it takes years to help a child achieve that healthy weight again. This is one reason why prevention is so important. Tracking BMI and addressing an increasing BMI before it is elevated can have so much benefit.

4. Fourthly, doctors may not want to offer a solution and when they feel like there is no solution to help their patient – they feel powerless.

5. Finally, all fault does not lie with the physician. Parents may also not be hearing the physician’s evaluation of their child’s weight because they do not want to hear what the doctor has to say. Many parents do not feel that their child’s weight is an issue even when their BMI is high. Many parents of overweight children are overweight themselves and are resistant to accepting they need lifestyle change. It is not until a parent is willing to accept that they need to change that they are open to the fact that their child needs help with lifestyle change.

This is a very important topic to be discussed in the medical appointment and hopefully in the future doctors will be trained to discuss this difficult topic in an effective, positive way for everyone. Not many people are motivated by negative reinforcement so the more positive the discussion – the better.

WakeMed’s ENERGIZE! program is here to help with many of these issues. We can help a family understand the health complications of continued weight gain, evaluate a parent’s and child’s readiness to change and provide the fitness, education and counseling that will get these families on the right track. We have helped over 600 families learn how to make healthy lifestyle choices a way of life.  Give us a call (919-350-7584) or ask your doctor about the program today.

Julie Paul is a program coordinator with WakeMed Children’s Diabetes and Endocrinology.