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Parents, Schools, Doctors, and Childhood Obesity

Posted Sep 13 2008 4:47am

There is a long article in today's New York Times about expensive camps for obese kids. These can cost as much as $1000 per week. Some give scholarships, so that is helpful, but I wonder how much good they actually do. If there was a good long-term follow-up of the kids, that would be helpful. It would make more sense if the parents attended the camp with the kids. Overeating generally starts at home. In my experience, obese parents usually have obese kids. If fast foods are the norm and there are lots of cookies, ice cream, cakes and pies, soft drinks, and chips available, how does a child learn to eat properly?

I think the schools can also be faulted. Do we really need vending machines in the schools with soft drinks, candy bars, potato chips and other high caloric foods available? Also, what about the usual cafeteria diet? High caloric foods are the norm, I am told. Do any schools teach good nutrition?

I think pediatricians and family doctors can also be faulted. How many doctors who see obese kids for a routine physical examination talk about diet or take a diet history? I think taking a diet history is important for all kids when you do a physical examination. That has always been part of my examination and it is amazing what people are eating these days. I saw one child for a consultation who was thought to have a muscle disease because of weakness and muscle cramps. The mother was a single parent with a very stressful job and she and her kids lived on fast food. By getting a three-day diet history and then giving the mother some ideas about shopping and cooking on weekends, I cured the boy's "muscle disease" ! I think we have to do a better job of helping kids before they become overweight.

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