September is AAP’s National Obesity Awareness Month — Get Involved!

September serves as the AAP’s National Obesity Awareness Month—an appropriate occasion for pediatricians to take a more active role in combating childhood obesity. Pediatric obesity has increased two to three fold over the past several decades in the US (see American Academy of Pediatrics recent clinical report, “The Role of the Pediatrician in Primary Prevention of Obesity”). Childhood obesity is now recognized as a public health priority given the myriad medical and psychosocial complications related to obesity and the substantial costs associated with its treatment. Although often difficult and uncomfortable, pediatricians should have frank and open discussions with their patients and families about obesity, its potential consequences, and  practical steps to combating it.

So, how do we go about this and what tools are available for pediatricians trying to curb the growing rate of obesity? We’re in luck: the AAP’s Institute for Healthy Childhood Weight (IHCW) has created several useful resources for the pediatrician.

First, the IHCW developed Change Talk: Childhood Obesity, an interactive training module available online and as a mobile app. The module is designed as a virtual practice environment which allows users to assume the role of a pediatrician engaging a mother and son about childhood obesity. The aim of the module is to help users learn how to utilize motivational interviewing (MI) techniques to counsel families about obesity. Additional MI resources including links to journal articles and relevant websites are available through Change Talk.

A second resource available on the IHCW website is Pediatric ePractice (PeP). PeP is a virtual office (separated into a break room, examination room, front office, measurement room, practitioner room, and waiting room) that provides access to AAP and partner resources for prevention and treatment of childhood obesity. Examples of resources include educational material in the virtual waiting room; reference material and continued learning documents in the virtual practitioner room; and coding and billing resources in the virtual front office.

A final resource available on the IHCW website is HealthyGrowth, a mobile app developed by the AAP. The app allows users to develop custom handouts on nutrition and growth for parents of children five years of age and younger. The handouts can be printed or emailed for parents’ convenience.

I encourage pediatricians to visit the IHCW website, experiment with the resources, decide which work best for their practices, and then take action to address obesity. With renewed effort and help from our friends at the AAP, pediatricians can begin to address a growing health crisis facing children.

Sources and Resources: 

Peter Joslyn, MD

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