Commentary on “Trends in Attitudes and Practice Patterns of Physical Therapists in Addressing Childhood Obesity in Schools”
When children with overweight or obesity present with functional deficits related to this health problem, school-based physical therapists should consistently choose to intervene and work to improve their health. However, referral to a physical therapist may be a challenge. Currently, only 21 states have legislation that mandates body mass index (BMI) or weight-related assessment by schools.1 An assessment of all children nationally could improve identification and, consequently, referral for school-based physical therapy (PT) evaluation. School-based BMI screenings alone are inadequate if they are not tied to an intervention or course of action. Physical therapists, as experts in movement and physical activity, are in an ideal position to be part of a solution. A collaborative team approach in the school setting, such as that recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,2 is imperative for this process to be successful.
“What should I be mindful about in applying this information?”
The authors outline numerous limitations of their research that make it difficult to generalize their findings to all therapists. In addition, the time between administration of the surveys may have been influenced by curricular changes in PT education that now promote nutrition and wellness. This new research should encourage all school-based physical therapists to examine their attitudes regarding their role in treating children who are obese. All physical therapists need to recognize the importance of early identification and prevention in addressing this widespread health problem. Future research is needed to examine the effect of school-based physical therapists in promoting health and wellness for children who are overweight and obese. Clinicians should recognize obesity as a disease and work to influence policy and facilitate reimbursement for health professionals' essential work with this population.