Tackling Childhood Obesity: A Visionary Care Model
Author: Dr Cyndi Inkpen
Childhood Obesity has reached pandemic proportions, with the rates growing in low- and middle-income countries at alarming rates, especially in urban or inner-city environments. Defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century,” childhood obesity affects approximately 42 million children around the world with 31 million children living in developing countries.1 This devastating disease impacts all aspects of a child’s life and sets each up for lifetime health problems; however, a multi-disciplinary, individualized care plan in a chronic disease management model could potentially change the face of childhood prevention and treatment of obesity.
It is no secret that obesity creates physical and psychological challenges for children. Increased physical ailments, including asthma, diabetes, and joint disorders, are common in those children who suffer from childhood obesity. Additionally, these children tend to present with increased psychopathologies that include depression, isolation, and anxiety. It is not uncommon for obesity to also impact the educational experience for children with increased absenteeism due to illnesses associated with the disease of obesity. Frequent absences are associated with children falling behind in schoolwork, leading to poor grades and potentially lagging behind their peers, leaving them socially isolated. The physical, psychological, and educational impact of childhood obesity sets the stage for significant health problems later in life.
The prevention and treatment of childhood obesity through a multi-disciplinary approach highlights the opportunity for an Obesity Medicine Specialist to serve as the single point coordinator of care - designing individualized care pathways that includes parental or guardian involvement. To achieve true, comprehensive care coordination, physicians from a number of specialities, allied health providers, educators, and lay-health coaches should be involved. Including other physicians such as psychologists, dietitians, exercise physiologists, counsellors, and lay coaches is imperative to the long-term success for children as they often have several physicians providing care or managing a host of co-morbidities. As a critical path to success, all associated providers should be invested in the plan or care pathway developed by the Obesity Medicine Specialist.
The Obesity Medicine specialist must also take extra care to include the parents by helping them understand that while they are not to blame for the disease, their support of the plan is vital. Many parents will need additional education, tools, and re-direction to effectively help their children. Because they are the gateway to involving other adults in the family, as well as other adults who provide care for the child, it is key that the parents are fully invested and made to feel valued in the care of their child. They will also be able to provide access to other family members who may be “sabotaging” the efforts of the team unintentionally. Parents also serve a crucial role in accessing school officials, day-care providers, and coaches who are key influencers in the child’s daily life. With parental support, it is more likely that consistent support from other adults in the family and in the child’s life will occur.
As new communication technologies continue to expand the limits of previous points of acute care, it is important to remember that the care plan or pathway should allow for care to be delivered in both in-person and via tele-medicine pathways. The days of needing to physically be in a brick and mortar provider’s office are those of a bygone era. Combining both formats allows for more touch points that are flexible to fit in the often extremely busy family lifestyle.
What can we do differently? What must we do differently to address the spread of this disease in our youngest? There are no easy answers to resolving this pandemic; however, a visionary approach towards prevention and treatment of the disease should be undertaken with the goal of completely eradicating the disease in future generations. One such approach, developed by Obesity PPM, is the Managed Ecosystem℠ for Integrated Obesity Treatment. In this model, Obesity PPM designs, executes, and administers a chronic disease management model for health systems that is patient centered, individualized, and multi-disciplinary – serving as a new treatment paradigm for childhood obesity and its related diseases such as Type II Diabetes. Powered by health cloud IT systems, the Managed Ecosystem℠ provides care in both in-person and telemedicine formats.
Childhood obesity is a complex and multifaceted disease process with no easy answers or quick-fix approaches. This chronic disease impacts all aspects of the child’s life and successful treatment involves the entire family and a coordinated, multi-disciplinary health care team. To stem the tide of the rapid increase in the growth of childhood obesity, we will be required to think differently and do differently than we have in the past.
1. World Health Organization. Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity. 2016. Accessed on October 7, 2016 at http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/childhood/en/
About Obesity PPM
Obesity PPM is an innovative disease management company improving population health via patient engagement and care coordination interventions addressing obesity, type II diabetes, and myriad related conditions. We serve healthcare delivery organizations transitioning to value-based reimbursement, medical device and pharmaceutical companies driving commercialization and utilization of evidence-based treatments, as well as health plans, managed care organizations, Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), and other healthcare payers seeking to make significant health economic impacts in the populations they serve. Website: www.ObesityPPM.com
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