Friday, January 29, 2010

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Calonge says it’s better to address the problem early instead of putting it off until the child is grown. “Once you become an overweight adult, it's more difficult to change your behavior,” Colange said. “We do believe that childhood behaviors can be changed, and investing in changing these behaviors in kids is an investment that can pay off lifelong.”

Since 2005, a program called Weigh Smart has helped children at Mount Washington Pediatric Hospital lose weight and decrease their BMI. Michelle Demeule, Weight Smart’s manager, says children who take part in the program are, on average, 12 years old, weight 200 pounds at about 5 feet tall and spend about five hours a day watching television or playing video games. After the children are referred by their doctor, they are placed in a group or receive individual family counseling. Families meet with a doctor and a psychologist, and children receive nutrition counseling and exercise. Reviews of the program show that children have a significant weight loss over the course of the program and it continues over the year they are followed. But Demeule says it’s not an easy task and families who want to do the program must really be committed to making the needed changes. “It is hard; it is not an easy fix,” she said.

Keith Ayoob, associate professor of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, agrees that parents must be involved in their child’s weight management program to see benefits. “Part of the problem is that where there are obese children, there are often obese parents,” he said. “Parents often have to take a hard look at their own eating styles and how they may have morphed into less-than-healthy role models. A whole family can get healthier when one child does.”

However, one of these intensive programs may be difficult to find and, for the few that exist, too expensive to afford as it’s not currently a covered benefit by most insurance. But Calonge said the new recommendation may change that. He said as more children are referred, more insurers will start reimbursing for the treatment and more programs will become available. Another push may come from the white house, as last week first lady Michelle Obama declared her intension to tackle childhood obesity in 2010.

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