New research is showing that primary care physicians can help prevent overweight children from becoming obese.
The Smart Steps Project, a study conducted in pediatric practices throughout Pennsylvania, is finding that “obesity-prevention intervention” techniques delivered in a primary care doctor’s office can reverse and prevent excessive weight gains, which leads to conditions like hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and fatty liver disease. For the study, 28 clinicians (including physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners) attended an 8 hour workshop on how to foster healthy lifestyle changes in patients. Children enrolled were all overweight with no severe chronic diseases. Some children were counseled in improving their health habits and increasing physical activity, others focused on reducing sugary drink consumption.
Six months later, the study showed significant improvement in the BMI levels of the children who had received behavioral intervention from their physician.
Primary care physicians play an important role in preventing obesity in both children and obese adults; they are on the front line for providing care to at-risk patients. By helping families make healthy lifestyle changes, these doctors can make huge headway in preventing obesity. While many physicians say they lack the skills necessary to properly counsel these young patients, the researchers of this study believe that “given proper training and support” obesity prevention strategies can be successful in the primary care setting.
When it comes to obesity prevention, timing is everything. It’s crucial to intervene with children who are overweight before they become obese, which puts them at risk for a variety of health concerns. While primary care physicians aren’t the only answer to helping manage overweight children, research that shows how doctors can help promote preventive health is crucial in figuring out what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to successful and healthy weight management.