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The topic of this blog is childhood obesity, an issue that has grown in prevalence and importance in the past decade.  I think it’s an important topic to address to the parents of young children, because the point is early awareness!


Ask Dr. Dixon, Blog #7: Childhood Obesity

The prevalence of childhood obesity has grown in the past decade; for instance, according to one study, the rate tripled in children ages 6-19 from 2003 to 2006 and in children ages 2-5, the incidence rose from 5 to 12.4%.  This is pretty impressive and suggests even further what a growing public health topic this has become.  The CDC estimates that this could affect as many as 34% of American children.


As primary care physicians, we are responsible for plotting your child’s weight versus height (in meters squared) to determine his or her body mass index or BMI at well visits.  We consider a child greater than the 85% percentile to be overweight and a child greater than the 95% percentile obese.  It is important to ask your pediatrician what your child’s BMI is at your well visits, so that you can trend it overtime.


The health consequences that follow obesity make BMI screening very important in our care of children.  I’m sure you can guess some of the medical complications, but here’s a more thorough, yet certainly not complete list:  high blood pressure, type II diabetes, high cholesterol, obstructive sleep apnea (difficulty sleeping), mechanical stress on joints, gastroesophageal reflux (“GERD”), gall stones, fatty liver, and poor self esteem.  These are medical complications that begin in childhood and can affect people for life, further reinforcing our job as pediatricians to identify overweight and obese patients and encourage necessary lifestyle changes.


As a pediatrician, I believe all children  and families should be encouraged to feel great about themselves, and it is my job as a physician to play to each patient and families strengths, working to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle.  For the parents of young children, like many of you who read this blog, the most important lifestyle points to address include things such as:


1)  How much time does your child spend in front of the television?  Does your child typically eat in front of the television?

2)  How much time does your child spend outdoors playing?


3)  Does your family eat home-prepared family dinners or do you eat on the run? 


4)  Does your child prefer juice over water?


The point of these questions is to target folks who may be at risk for sedentary lifestyles that don’t incorporate healthy food choices.  The Cleveland Clinic recently adopted the “5 to GO!” message in their clinics and practices to incorporate healthy choices.  I thought this seemed easy and useful, so I will share it with you:


“5 to GO!” Message:

5:  Eat 5 fruits and veggies a day

4:  Give and get 4 compliments a day

3:  Consume 3 dairy a day

2:  No more than 2 media hours a day

1:  At least 1 hour of exercise a day

0:  NO sugar-sweetened drinks, ever.

GO:  Be well, inside and out!


I think this is an easy list or set of guidelines to implement healthy living.  Starting here, we can hopefully continue the healthy choices your family is already making or enable you to see what some easy changes are that you could make.  I always screen for over-use of juice (more than about 6 oz/day is too much!) and about time spent in front of the TV.  Reductions in both can result in a healthier lifestyle - today!


I hope you’ve found this post helpful!  Please let me know if you have any questions or comments. 



Dr. Meredith Dixon


Leave a comment or question for Dr. Dixon below or on her profile page. She's excited to hear from you!

[Views expressed in the blog series are not in whole or in part that of MCITP and offered solely as a family resource]



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