Program Addresses Childhood Obesity Epidemic

Across the country, kids are getting heavier. This problem is especially prevalent in New Mexico; the 2005 Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey for New Mexico revealed that although 19 percent of white children are overweight or obese, 29 percent of Hispanic children and 38 percent of American Indian children are overweight. Children with a body mass index in the 95th percentile have higher risk factors for diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.

Envision New Mexico, a program of the Department of Pediatrics at the UNM Health Sciences Center, has found success in addressing this serious health issue. Published in the June 1, 2009, issue of the medical journal Pediatrics, the study focused on creating a system for healthcare providers at School-Based Health Centers (SBHCs) to consistently and effectively diagnose obese and overweight children and address their associated health conditions.

Providers who participated in the study were trained on four methods to apply to all patients: calculation of body mass index; making a weight-category diagnosis based on the BMI percentile; assessing the patient’s readiness to change using a motivational interview; and discussing four key messages with patients that enhance a healthy lifestyle. Studies have shown that, when used together, these four methods can help healthcare providers teach children to change unhealthy habits and learn healthy ones.

School-based health centers offer a unique model of care for children. Since they are located at schools and offer their services during the school day, they are very accessible for children, and providers have regular interactions with students. School-based health centers combine physical and mental health services and emphasize prevention and early intervention.

Located within the Department of Pediatrics at the UNM Health Sciences Center, Envision New Mexico is dedicated to quality improvement initiatives in pediatric health care. Its staff of physicians, nurse practitioners, nutritionists, social workers, health educators, and psychologists work with community health care professionals to make sustainable changes in their practices to improve the quality of health care for children and families in New Mexico.

Contact: HSC Public Affairs, 272-3322

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