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Vital Signs

Fall 2008

UCLA FIT Combats Childhood Obesity

“Not only can we address children’s medical needs, but we can also work on their weight loss, which is very important to their overalltreatment and will ultimately help to reverse their problems.” — Wendy Slusser, M.D.

Article: UCLA FIT combats Childhood ObesityWith an estimated 11 million overweight children and adolescents nationwide, and some 13 million more who are at risk for becoming overweight, excessive weight among children is characterized as the most serious and prevalent nutritional disorder in the United States.

Excessive weight can lead to problems in both childhood and adulthood. Pediatricians increasingly are diagnosing adult-onset, or type 2, diabetes in overweight youngsters, along with high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol. When overweight children become overweight adults, they are at significantly higher risk for a host of weight-related health problems such as heart disease, hypertension, sleep apnea and stroke.

As part of the effort to combat this problem, UCLA has established the UCLA Fit for Healthy Weight Program, a multidisciplinary approach to treating overweight children. “The goal of Fit is to work with the doctors in the community to serve a group of children who traditionally have been challenging for general pediatricians to take care of,” says Wendy Slusser, M.D., an expert in childhood nutrition and one of the lead physicians for UCLA FIT.

The program follows a four-tier system for managing overweight children. The first two tiers can be undertaken in a community pediatrician’s office and involve identification, assessment of risk factors, nutritional guidance and structured weight management, while the third and fourth tiers require a more specialized, multidisciplinary approach.

 “Not only can we address children’s medical needs, but we can also work on their weight loss, which is very important to their overall treatment and will ultimately help to reverse their problems,” Dr. Slusser says. “Based on our assessment, we will determine the needs for each individual child.”

In addition to a general pediatrician whose professional focus is nutrition, FIT includes other specialists, including a bariatric surgeon. Surgery, however, is a last resort, and only select patients will be candidates for minimally invasive weight-loss and metabolic surgery, says Daniel DeUgarte, M.D., surgical director of the program.

The cornerstone to treating weight issues remains diet and increased physical activity. Sixty minutes or more of sustained exercise every day is recommended for children and adolescents, Dr. Slusser says. A diet that offers the full Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamins, minerals and proteins and is based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nonfat and low-fat dairy products, fish, lean meat and beans is preferable. Changes in diet seem to be most successful when preparation of familiar foods is modified rather than new foods being substituted.

Call (310) UCLA-FIT for more info, or: find more online www.fitprogram.ucla.edu


Vital Signs Fall 2008 article: UCLA FIT helps Overweight ChildrenTips for Parents

UCLA advises parents to:

1. Provide healthy food
Serve meals high in whole grains,fruits and vegetables, and includechildren in making food choices.

2. Get your child moving
Turn off the TV. Children should haveat least 60 minutes of sustainedphysical activity most days.

3. Practice what you preach
When parents make an effort themselves to stay active and eat healthful foods, children get the message.

For more Health Tips for Parents on a variety of topics: www.uclahealth.org/publications


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