Pediatric health care providers have been urged by experts to offer routine obesity screening and counseling. In order to determine whether this is occurring in practice, researchers analyzed data on 13,881 patients between the ages of 11 and 17 years who took part in the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey between 2001 and 2007 and reported having at least 1 health provider visit in the previous year. Their results were published online on June 4, 2012, in Pediatrics.
The researchers looked at whether parents reported their children were weighed and measured at their health care visit and whether they received counseling on eating habits and the importance of physical activity. The results showed that 47% of girls and 44% of boys received advice on healthy eating, and 36% of both boys and girls were advised to exercise more.
Compared with adolescents of normal weight, obese boys and girls were 70% and 110% more likely, respectively, to be advised to eat healthy, and 90% and 137% more likely, respectively, to be urged to exercise more. Overweight adolescents, however, received dietary and exercise counseling at much lower rates than the obese.
Adolescents in the northeast, those from higher-income households, those whose parents had at least some college, and those who had a regular source of medical care were all more likely to receive counseling. The researchers conclude that greater efforts should be made to incorporate obesity screening and counseling into clinical practice by pediatric health care providers.