Can a Pediatrician Effectively Treat a 9-Year-Old Obese Girl?

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Maria is a 9-year-old Latina girl who was followed up by her pediatrician since birth with normal developmental milestones, good school achievement, and without significant medical problems. She was not in the pediatric office for the past 3 years. At the age of 9 years, she presented for a health supervision visit. Her pediatrician looked at her growth chart-90 pounds (95th percentile) and height 52 inches (50th percentile)-that confirmed a clinical impression of obesity on physical examination. Her body mass index was 23.4 (>95th percentile for age).


During 10 years in primary care pediatric practice, the pediatrician typically prescribed a management plan for obese school-aged and adolescent patients that started with parent and child education about potential health problems associated with obesity followed by a recommendation to decrease the caloric intake and encourage active exercise each day. She then arranged for follow-up visits to monitor weight and adherence to the management plan. However, a moment of self-refection suggested that most of her patients did not follow her advice in a sustained way. Obesity persisted in most cases. The pediatrician wondered if there was an alternative-better yet, evidence-based—approach to pediatric obesity that might provide a better outcome.

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