Michigan and Childhood Obesity
News came out recently about a new initiative in Michigan for state-wide tracking of pediatric BMI (body-mass index) values. The rationale behind the new policy is that physicians will see the data and be more likely to discuss healthy weight and lifestyles with the patients and the children's parents. The only lacking part of the policy is that physicians are not required to educate their patients and families about obesity, nor does it give the physicians more time during an appointment to review the data with the patient and family. Other noteworthy news this week also surfaced that Michelle Obama is teaming with Olive Garden and Red Lobster (the Darden restaurant group) to reduce fat, sodium and calories in their meals. Obama also hopes to make milk the default drink with kid's meals, unless the guest specifically requests a soda-pop drink.
I don't have kids, so I don't know how hard it is to find time for children to exercise and eat healthy meals. But, I know it's hard for myself to do those things during a busy week... I just need to make it a priority. And it should be a priority. Discussing obesity during an appointment with a primary care physician should be the highest priority, policy or no policy. I think tracking the BMI values is a great start; and physician improvement of those values over the course of a year should be considered with performance reviews and raises. Outcomes are key, and children need to be healthy.
If health care providers could focus efforts on reducing obesity in the patients they serve, the amount of other preventable injuries could be diminished significantly. Patients who are obese are more likely to need hip and knee replacements due to the increased impact force on those joints, diabetic-related neuropathies, and muscle atrophy and weakness. I think part of the problem is a lack of responsibility and advocacy for these overweight patients - very few health care providers will address the lifestyle changes needed. In South Florida, a group of physicians (OB-GYNs) have recently refused to treat obese patients due to the increased risk of being sued and the risk of additional complications during pregnancy and delivery.
As physical therapists, we may be able to help our patients live better by addressing the root of the problem instead of focusing on the knee range of motion or other specific interventions. We can implement a beginning exercise program and recommend our patients to meet with a dietician. We are just as accountable as any other provider.
What about you? How are you helping the obesity epidemic in our nation, both for children and adults? How do you find time to help your children stay healthy?