Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Obesity in Children Going Undiagnosed

As you know, there has been widespread media attention given to studies that have indicated as many as one-third of American children have a weight problem.

Sadly, a new study shows just 30% of children who are overweight or obese actually receive that diagnosis by a pediatrician. The study, led by researchers at The MetroHealth System and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, also stresses that this failure to diagnose appears to mostly impact children who may most greatly benefit from early intervention. The study is published in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Researchers reviewed Body Mass Index (BMI) measurements recorded on electronic medical records for more than 60,000 children (2-18 years) who had at least one visit between June 1999 and October 2007 at a group of health care facilities under the Metrohealth banner. The BMI measurement showed that 19% (11,277) of the children were overweight, 23% (14,105) obese, and 8% (4,670) severely obese.

Only 76% of severely obese children and 54% of obese children were diagnosed that way – and, just 10% of overweight patients received a proper diagnosis. (Overweight is defined as a BMI between the 85th-95th percentile. Obesity is defined as a BMI greater than 95th percentile. And severely obese is a BMI equal or greater to the 99th percentile.)

“Despite having set pediatric BMI guidelines, this is a bit of a wake-up call to pediatricians that as many as 90% of overweight children are not being properly diagnosed,” said David C. Kaelber, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., lead author of the study and assistant professor of pediatrics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. “Better identification of this group of children who have just crossed into the ‘unhealthy’ weight category is essential for early intervention which will hopefully prevent not only a childhood of increased health problems, but also what now often becomes an ongoing battle through adulthood with life-long issues.”

As a parent, I can tell you that it is easy not to "see" problems in your own children. Having a doctor look you in the eye and tell you that your child is obese could be the only thing that will wake you up and force a change.


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