Denver – Bending the increasingly upward curve of childhood obesity in the US is a daunting task. Help has traditionally come from parents, primary care providers, specialists, and weight loss programs. More recently, digital health technology has started to play a role. On September 17th, Prime Health and the Innovation Pavilion co-sponsored a panel discussion on childhood obesity to examine this challenging health problem.
Margaret McGuckin of i3 Ignite moderated the discussion, which featured the following four panelists:
- Thea Runyan, Co-Founder of Kurbo Health
- Nicole Meyer, Associate Director, American Diabetes Association
- Kevin Gilbert, Founder, HeartSmartKids
- Joshua Scott, Strategic Planning and Training Manager, Health Links Colorado
Runyan outlined the daunting nature of childhood obesity in America for the audience:
- 1 in every 3 young Americans is overweight or obese.
- Children who are overweight by age 5 are more likely to be overweight as teens and adults.
- Doctors are frustrated by the lack of effective resources available to their patients.
- Parents are upset and concerned because they don’t know where to get help for their overweight children.
Highlights from the Panel
Responding to a query from McGuckin on what does and does not work in pediatric obesity, Runyan noted that programs tailored to adults aren’t always effective for kids. For example, while community is an important component of some adult obesity programs, “Community does not work for kids. They don’t want to talk about their weight unless they are successful.” Runyan added that solutions would likely differ for each child and family.
Kevin Gilbert of HeartSmartKids emphasized the importance of selecting the right measure of success early in the development of a program addressing childhood obesity. According to Gilbert, while reduction in body-mass index was a good long-term goal, focusing on the short-term goal of changing a child’s behavior was more realistic and could help to guide a program’s development.
Gilbert also noted that factors in addition to diet should be considered, including level of activity and sleeping patterns, along with traumatic events like the loss of a parent, which could have a marked impact on a child’s health.
Josh Scott of Health Links Colorado discussed how the health of a working parent could impact the health of a child. He claimed that his organization’s program took a holistic approach to the problem, focusing on the health, safety, and wellness of the employees enrolled in it. According to Scott, preventing injury and improving an employee’s health could positively impact the health of their children.
Nicole Myer of the American Diabetes Association emphasized that diabetes was a problem among thin youth as well. Diabetes should be considered, Myer told the audience, if a child is frequently not feeling well, losing weight, or more frequently drinking or urinating.