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Specialty Clinic Fighting Pediatric Obesity at BMC

Specialty Clinic Fighting Pediatric Obesity at BMC

Boston Medical Center's Nutrition & Fitness for Life Clinic helps children and adolescents struggling with obesity achieve their weight goals. As more research shows the benefits of obesity intervention in early childhood, the clinic has designed a treatment program specifically for children age five and under. The program, called Hi-5 Way, focuses on both medical and lifestyle issues and works with the entire family to help put kids on track to becoming healthy adults.

"Working with kids as early as possible is important. As a multidisciplinary team, we can really identify the problem and address the issue quickly," said Nutrition & Fitness for Life Medical Director Carine Lenders, MD, MS, ScD. "Early intervention not only prevents the numerous diseases associated with obesity, it also minimizes psychological difficulties from teasing later in adolescence."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about one in eight preschoolers is obese in the United States. The numbers are higher among children from low-income families, where concern about crime and lack of access to recreational facilities keeps children indoors. Families in many urban areas do not live in proximity to supermarkets and busy working parents often rely on fast food options to feed their families.

The Hi-5 Way program brings together a unique team of pediatricians, dietitians and social workers to evaluate at-risk children. Clinic physicians identify underlying health problems such as endocrinological or genetic conditions and complications associated with obesity such as sleep apnea. A dietitian and social worker help patients and their families to identify barriers and set goals to change behaviors and improve weight status.

For families with young children, the team counsels parents on nutritional guidelines and setting limits within the household. A social worker helps families find community resources such as recreational programs, parks and playgroups that encourage children to be active. Each patient receives a tailored care plan to meet his or her unique needs and is followed by the team for up to a year.

"We see tremendous success with this age group because toddlers and young children are more willing to accept the limits set by their parents than preteens and teenagers. These children are also growing fast, and if they are able to maintain their weight for a few months, we often see rapid improvement in their body mass indices," explained BMC Clinical Dietitian Kathy Ireland, MS, RD, LDN.

Housed within BMC's Department of Pediatrics, the clinic is especially well positioned to handle the needs of low income families. Drawing from unique resources throughout the hospital, clinic staff can provide families with food prescriptions to the BMC Food Pantry, a jump rope lesson and complementary jump rope from the BMC bWell Center and even free legal assistance through the Medical-Legal Partnership | Boston.