Food for Thought
Researchers reporting in the August issue of Pediatrics say that a large percentage of pediatricians fail to identify and treat early signs of obesity in their young patients. Calling these findings “disheartening,” the study authors said that the doctors diagnosed obesity in only about half of the young subjects who met the study criteria for being clinically obese. Even more disturbing was the observation that only 15% of the pediatricians studied bothered to question the children’s activity levels or television-viewing habits.
The study, which took place at Chil-dren’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, involved 244 obese children ranging in age from 3 months to 16 years. The children who most frequently failed to be identified as obese were those who were 5 years old or younger. It’s interesting to note that there was no relationship between the physicians’ ability to properly diagnose the condition and their years of pediatric training.
Even when pediatricians did correctly diagnose a child as obese, their subsequent evaluation and treatment was not in keeping with current recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatricians. For example, during patient evaluations, most of the doctors focused on the role of diet in obesity, as opposed to concentrating on inadequate physical activity. Only a handful (5%) of the pediatricians recommended that their obese patients decrease the number of hours they spent watching TV, despite evidence linking television viewing and childhood obesity.
The authors concluded, “The results of this study are disheartening, especially as evidence mounts regarding the importance of early intervention in preventing . . . obesity, as well as the persistence of obesity into adulthood. This study highlights the need for increased awareness and identification of obesity in the primary-care setting, especially among younger children and those with mild obesity.”