Checkup: Why Pediatricians Don't Discuss Overweight Kids
The statistics are easy to see: One out of three kids in America is now overweight or obese. But a new study finds that this issue may not be getting enough discussion in pediatriciansí offices. Researchers looked at a decadeís worth of national surveys on nearly 5,000 kids. All were at least a little overweight.
"What we found is that most parents of overweight and obese children reported never having been told that their child was overweight. That percentage did improve from the late 1990s to 2008, but even in recent years, over 70 percent of parents of overweight children report never having been told, and just about 1/3 of parents of very obese children report having never been told."
That was lead researcher Eliana Perrin, an associate professor of pediatrics at UNC, Chapel Hill. But pediatricians discuss more upsetting problems than this every day. Why is a kidís weight such a, uh, heavy topic?
"Weíve done some prior research showing that a pediatricianís perception of his or her own weight may make this harder or easier depending on how they look at themselves. And then thereís the worry that parents will take offense at what we say. So basically pediatricians fear the conversation isnít going to go well or that they donít know how to help."
Sheís found some ways to make the talk easier. You can apply the old Garfield saying:
"Iím not overweight, Iím undertall."
Which means that kids have that magical ability to grow several feet taller. Parents and doctors can plan some changes, such as more exercise and nutritious food and less TV, to help the kids grow into a healthier weight.
And instead of the dreaded word "obese," Dr. Perrin prefers,
"Overweight or unhealthy weight. It brings together the connection of weight and health, and really thatís what this is all about."
This conversation could help a lot of kids these days, if the grownups can work up the nerve to discuss it.
Iím Eric Metcalf, and instead of losing 10 pounds this spring, Iíd rather grow to 6í2Ē.