Obesity is growing at epidemic proportions in children. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show the percentage of children aged 6 to 11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12 to 19 years who were obese increased from 5% to nearly 21% over the same time period.
If not reversed, obesity can cause many problems, from earlier cardiovascular disease related to high cholesterol, to diabetes and all of the complications that brings. To help combat these concerns, the COACH (Center for Obesity and its Consequences in Health) Program at Children’s Health℠ has been helping families tackle childhood obesity since 2006.
Why Children's Health℠?
The COACH Program is a multidisciplinary group of health care professionals who share an interest in helping children and families live a healthy lifestyle. Both physicians and support staff have made the decision to specifically work with overweight children. Beyond their experience, they bring enthusiasm and passion to their work.
All doctors are on the staff at Children’s Medical Center and hold faculty positions at UT Southwestern Medical Center. This means that they not only stay abreast of the latest changes in their specialty areas, in many cases they are helping to develop new treatments and interventions.
The American Board of Pediatrics certifies all of the COACH physicians. Many have further credentials in Pediatric Endocrinology or Pediatric Cardiology. Children’s was ranked 15th nationally in Diabetes and Endocrinology among all hospitals by U.S. News & World Report.
Our COACH clinic is the only comprehensive program for childhood obesity in North Texas. In 2008, Children’s was selected to participate in a National Association of Children’s Hospitals and Related Institutions (NACHRI) Workgroup to identify best practices in the treatment and prevention of childhood obesity.
What to Expect
Obesity is defined according to a child’s body mass index (BMI). BMI is calculated using their height and weight. It doesn’t measure body fat directly, but is a good indicator for most children and teens.
Participants in COACH must be between 6 and 18 years old, and have a BMI that is at or above the 85th percentile for their age, height, and gender. They will be given a psychological test called the Readiness to Change Questionnaire that helps measure how motivated someone is to make the important changes in lifestyle that will be needed to lose weight and keep it off.
Upon referral from your child’s primary care doctor, the physicians at COACH will do a complete medical history. They will check vital signs, including assessments for high blood pressure.
They will then run blood tests. Children who are obese are more likely than others of the same age to have elevated cholesterol that can lead to early heart attacks. They also may have indicators that diabetes may be imminent or already established.
The COACH physician will spend around half an hour listening to the patient and parents to get an idea of where there are concerns. This will help them to evaluate and treat these obese children, including detailed diet and exercise histories and recommendations for new regimens based on a child's health needs. A dietitian technician comes in and typically recommends that patients see a nutritionist within six weeks. They will talk about limiting eating to three healthy meals a day and help the family identify healthier snacking opportunities.
Assuming there are no health concerns that might intervene, staff will talk with you about exercise programs that can help your child not only lose weight, but also strengthen the heart and muscles.
The COACH (Center for Obesity and its Consequences in Health) program was established in 2006 to work with families in treating childhood obesity. The program offers intensive weight management therapies that lead to creating and maintaining lifelong habits of good nutrition and healthy activities, such as exercise.
The program includes access to physicians, dietitians, exercise professionals, and counselors. The goal is to provide a comfortable and safe environment for children whose Body Mass Index (BMI) is at or above the 95th percentile, so they can learn to make healthy lifestyle choices, lose weight, and prevent the medical complications of obesity.
Since the normal body fat of a child varies with age, your child’s status is found using categories that are age- and sex-specific. A child is considered overweight when his BMI is at or above the 85th percentile, but under the 95th percentile, for children who are the same age, height, and gender. A child is obese when she is at or above the 95th percentile for BMI.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have a BMI calculator for those younger than 19 years of age at: http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/dnpabmi/
After establishing your child’s BMI, a full medical history and examination will be completed. A doctor may order laboratory studies to measure the amount of fat (lipids) and glucose or sugar in the blood, and how well the liver and thyroid are functioning. If any problems are found during this examination, your child will be referred to the proper specialist for treatment.