By Karla Lester, MD
Is our community doing all we can do to help obese children? Are we providing an “opportunity for health” for all children in our community? Or are we failing them?
6% of U.S. children and teens are severely obese which means that their BMI is 20 % higher than the cutoff for obesity (95% BMI). That equates to approximately 3,000 severely obese children and teens in our community.
Last week, I spent a morning at the Children’s HEROES summer camp. HEROES stands for Healthy Eating with Resources Options and Everyday Strategies. The camp is a part of the Children’s Hospital and Medical Center Omaha’s HEROES Weight management clinic. How many times can I write HEROES in one sentence? There I go again. Writing HEROES over and over, because when I think of these kids who are growing up in our unhealthy communities, burdened with what once were adult diseases, I think of them as HEROES. They are super HEROES. As a collective, over the course of a 5 day camp, they lost 53 pounds and celebrated with a recognition ceremony, good food and tears all around. They were crying because it was the first time many of them have felt successful at improving their health. They now have hope.
Obesity is a complex interplay of genetics, environment and behavior. It is calories in and calories burned, but human beings are not simple equations. Each one of us comes with our own health story. Children’s health is at the mercy of their genetics, upbringing and their environments. Many parents swim upstream against the current of our unhealthy environment, but children who are currently overweight or obese need more than their parents’ and community prevention efforts. For those who have a genetic predisposition to become overweight or obese, to develop diabetes, or heart disease, the unhealthy communities we live in are the second hit in a two hit hypothesis. The 2007 Expert Committee Recommendations outline a staged approach to childhood obesity treatment.
What is our community’s answer? What programs are available to help the children most severely affected by the childhood obesity epidemic?
The staged approach to obesity treatment falls squarely on the shoulders of healthcare providers. Teach a Kid to Fish has worked hard over the last seven years to lay a foundation of prevention of childhood obesity efforts in the community and also to develop a staged approach to childhood obesity treatment. This staged approach ranges from stage 1 interventions and resources, such as Foster Healthy Weight in Youth physician toolkits to Stage 3 interventions such as Bodyworks and a Stage 4 collaboration with Children’s HEROES program to launch a satellite childhood obesity clinic in Lincoln this fall. Below is the Teach a Kid to Fish program pyramid which shows prevention and treatment programs ranging from early childhood to adolescence.
Back to the HEROES! Don’t be mistaken. They are not lazy. They are brilliant, funny, sweet kids who love to play and have fun just like all kids. Their opportunities for living a healthy life are just not there and many of them have not had an “opportunity for health” from the start. Let’s “create a community solution for children’s health” through implementation of our community’s staged approach to treatment!