Pharmacists' Role in Recognizing Childhood Obesity

Pharmacists can play a vital role in increasing awareness of childhood obesity.

Pharmacists can play a vital role in increasing awareness of childhood obesity, especially since a recent study found most parents misperceive their obese children as being “about the right weight.”

“Unfortunately, due to lack of provider status, pharmacists cannot bill Medicaid or most commercial insurance independently for services. However, this does not necessarily mean pharmacists are not qualified for discussing weight issues with kids and their parents,” senior study author Jian Zhang, MD, DrPH, explained to Pharmacy Times in an e-mail. “…Pharmacists can and should play a vital role in increasing the awareness of obesity in society as a whole. Discussing body weight issues is also an effective way to build up a mutual trust between pharmacists and parents.”

For their study published in Childhood Obesity, Dr. Zhang and co-authors compared data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1988 to 1994 and 2007 to 2012. In both surveys, parents were asked whether they considered their child aged 2 to 5 years to be overweight, underweight, or just about the right weight.

In the more recent survey, about 95% of parents incorrectly perceived their overweight child as “about the right” and nearly 80% inappropriately indicated the same for their obese child. These misperceptions remained relatively unchanged from the previous time period, but the researchers said it is important to note children in the later survey were significantly more overweight than those in the earlier one.

In both surveys, African-American families were most inclined to misperceive their obese or overweight children as being “about the right weight.” Moreover, as family income increased, parents were more likely to recognize their children were overweight or obese.

The researchers said these findings present additional cause for concern and opportunities for intervention, since African-American and low-income populations have the highest rates of childhood obesity.

“We need effective strategies to encourage clinician discussions with parents about appropriate weight for their child,” Dr. Zhang said. “This will be critical for childhood weight management and obesity prevention.”