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Child/Adolescent Health

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Children are more likely to attend a weight management program if location and time are convenient for parents

Pediatricians are seeing more children whose health is threatened by being overweight or obese. Weight management programs can help these children lose weight; however, if children are to attend the programs, the locations need to be convenient and the programs held at times that fit parents' preferred structure. Researchers Sarah E. Barlow, M.D., M.PH., and Chris L. Ohlemeyer, M.D., of the St. Louis University School of Medicine studied 157 obese children (mean age of 12 years and mean body mass index of 39.9) and found that one-third did not return for second visits and nearly two-thirds did not show up for future visits to their weight management program.

The individualized, behavior-based, weight management program was designed for children and adolescents. As part of the program, an interdisciplinary team and the family identified two to four specific goals for improved eating and activity based on the child's current patterns. Followup visits were scheduled monthly.

Survey responses from 43 families, whose children attended two or fewer program visits, provided some insight into why the children didn't return. Over one-third (37 percent) of parents reported that the program was not what they were looking for. Some parents specified that they wanted a different approach, such as a structured diet or group exercise program. Some expressed discomfort with program staff. Other reasons for nonreturn were distance to the program (23 percent), scheduling conflicts (21 percent), and lack of insurance coverage for weight management (21 percent). Another 16 percent said their child was not ready to make this type of change, and 5 percent said the family was not ready to make this type of change. The study was supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS13901).

See "Parent reasons for nonreturn to a pediatric weight management program," by Drs. Barlow and Ohlemeyer, in the May 2006 Clinical Pediatrics 45, pp. 355-360.

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