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Study finds payment for pediatric obesity services now can save money later
Date:9/6/2011

Pediatric obesity ends up costing $3 billion annually in the U.S., but a significant amount of that could be saved by streamlining medical coverage to address health issues affecting young obese patients now rather than waiting to treat conditions they develop as they get older, according UCLA researchers and colleagues.

For morbidly obese children, access to multidisciplinary services can lead to successful outcomes. But because clinicians lack a universal set of guidelines to follow, health insurers and hospitals often evaluate insurance coverage for obesity services on a case-by-case basis. This creates a critical barrier between patients and providers.

In an effort to guide medical providers, patients and payers in better serving obese children and enabling the best health outcomes possible, a UCLA-led work group from the FOCUS on a Fitter Future collaboration of the National Association of Children's Hospitals and Related Institutions reviewed existing successful programs to evaluate what works best.

They found that stage 3 comprehensive, multidisciplinary intervention programs should include a health care team with a medical provider, a registered dietitian, a physical activity specialist, a mental health specialist and a coordinator. The team should provide a total of at least 26 to 75 hours of service to overweight and obese children.

While some may argue that up to 75 hours of service is a lot of time, the group determined that the investment of services would be recovered in 6.5 years for the privately insured patient and 3.5 years for the patient insured by Medicaid.

"With pediatric obesity, the focus has been on the related diseases that usually come later, such as diabetes, heart disease and hypertension," said lead author Dr. Wendy Slusser, medical director of the UCLA Fit for Healthy Weight program at Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA. "However, what we see now is that the obese child or adoles
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Contact: Amy Albin
aalbin@mednet.ucla.edu
310-794-8672
University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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