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Pediatrics: Doctors Must Find Better Ways to Talk To Parents about Childhood Obesity
Date:10/5/2009

Study finds parents don't understand importance of growth charts/BMI, Children's National pediatrician stresses the need for clear communication about seriousness of overweight children

Washington, DC -- Doctors who rely on height and weight growth charts to explain the seriousness of a child being overweight may not be reaching the child's parents, a new study in Pediatrics finds. In an accompanying editorial, Children's National Medical Center pediatrician and obesity expert Anjali Jain, MD, says that pediatricians must find more effective ways to illustrate to parents the difference between typical patterns of growth and the growth or development of their child.

"We, as physicians, have a responsibility to help parents understand what these charts and percentiles mean so that they can make the best decisions possible for the health of their children," said Dr. Jain. "If the numbers themselves are not clear, we must do a better job finding tangible ways to explain the seriousness of the story the numbers should tell."

As an example of parents' lack of information about the figures, she writes that "when body mass index percentiles began to appear on report cards in some states in an effort to increase awareness of childhood obesity risk, parents sometimes mistook high values to be desirable. A BMI percentile of 95 was regarded the way other 'A' grades were considered, as optimal, not unhealthy."
   
With or without the use of growth charts and body-mass-indices, pediatricians can find other, more tangible methods to help parents track the growth and development of their child, including:


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