State Health Has Tools to Fight Childhood Obesity

ALBANY – March 29, 2007 – State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., today announced a statewide initiative using a "toolkit" for healthcare professionals to address childhood obesity, a major health issue for youngsters.

"The best way to treat obesity in youth is to detect it early and stop its progression," said Dr. Daines. "To assist in that effort, we've developed our toolkit to ensure early identification of children who are already overweight or at risk of becoming overweight."

To ensure early identification of children who are already overweight or at-risk of becoming overweight, the kit has been sent to New York State pediatricians, family physicians, nurse practitioners, WIC nutrition educators, dieticians, medical residents and school-based health centers. The kit uses body-mass-index (BMI), a calculation based on height and weight for the child's age and gender, to determine if a child is overweight or obese. Included in the kit are a two-sided pediatric/adolescent BMI calculator wheel, BMI-for-age percentile growth charts for boys and girls that are color-coded for quick identification of a child's weight status, and recommendations for counseling to guide parents and children in steps they can take to stay healthy.

Efforts start with early recognition of overweight by healthcare providers and parents. Parents should expect their child's healthcare provider to weigh and measure their child and discuss their child's weight status with them at each regular check-up. For children who are not at a healthy weight, further evaluation, family-focused counseling on diet and exercise and referral to appropriate healthcare providers such as dieticians or behavioral psychologists, are recommended.

"All pediatric providers should provide counseling about ways to prevent the development of obesity in the first place - breast feed until one year of age, eat healthy, be active and limit television viewing," said Dr. Daines.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Institute of Medicine, agree that screening children at yearly check-ups, beginning at 2 years of age, using age and sex-specific body mass index (BMI) percentiles, is the best way to make sure children with weight-related problems are identified early. While screening for weight issues is the first step, it is also important that pediatric providers talk about the results with parents and children, if they are old enough.

The Health Department requires managed care plans to assure that healthcare providers include obesity screening and counseling about nutrition and exercise in preventive healthcare visits for adolescents. This initiative began in 2006 as a performance measure in the Quality Assurance Reporting Requirements (QARR) and is included in the New York State Managed Care Plan Performance Report available at: http://www.health.ny.gov/health_care/managed_care/reports/.

For more information on the NYSDOH Childhood Obesity Prevention Program visit: http://www.health.ny.gov/prevention/nutrition/resources/docs/2003-2006_ewph_community_intervention_projects.pdf.