New centre provides weight-management support for youth
October 19, 2012
Specialists help families make healthy lifestyle changes
Dawn Hersey was concerned about her son’s weight but it wasn’t until she visited her pediatrician and learned nine-year-old Brandon had high cholesterol that she knew something had to change.
The family was referred to the new Pediatric Centre for Weight and Health (PCWH) at the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary – a program Hersey credits for helping get Brandon’s health back on track.
“Now Brandon is maintaining his weight as he grows up, he is eating better and has more energy,” says Hersey.
The centre brings together a team of specialists – including pediatricians, nurses, exercise specialists, registered dietitians, social workers, outreach co-ordinators and patient care co-ordinators – to help youth between the ages of two and 17 years to reach and maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle.
Nearly 220,000 Albertans ages 2 to 17 – roughly one in four – are either obese or overweight. The centre hopes to help reduce that number. Since opening last spring, 60 families have already received weight-management support for their children.
“When we opened our doors in April, we already had over 100 referrals. That tells us there is a real need for this service and we are excited to be able to provide that support and ultimately help more families live a healthy lifestyle,” says patient care manager Margaret Morgan-Moore.
Families with children who have weight-management issues are referred to the centre through a physician or nurse practitioner. As a first step, members of the centre’s health team meet with these families to explain what will be expected of them.
“This really helps families determine where they are at. This is a big commitment and they have to be ready to make change,” says outreach co-ordinator Naomi Omar-Ali.
If families commit, patients are scheduled ongoing appointments with care providers based on their needs and goals, and families are provided the resources and information to help them make healthy lifestyle changes and decisions. These include:
- Having blood pressure checked regularly.
- Getting sufficient sleep.
- Planning meals based on Canada’s Food Guide.
- Reading nutrition labels.
- Limiting time in front of a TV or computer screen.
For Hersey, having a dietitian help her family understand Canada’s Food Guide made the biggest difference.
“Before, I was cooking special meals just for him because he was very particular about what he would eat,” she says. “After learning how many fruits and veggies he needed each day, I realized I had to stop doing that and start making one balanced meal that the whole family could eat. The changes didn’t just help Brandon; our entire family is eating healthier.”
The establishment of a Pediatric Centre for Weight and Health in Calgary, to complement two similar centres in Edmonton, is part of the AHS Obesity Initiative, a comprehensive five-year plan to reduce the burden of obesity across the province.
The Calgary centre expects to support 150 additional families in the next year.
For more information on pediatric weight management services, call Health Link Alberta at 1-866-408-5465 or talk to your family doctor.