Study: Doctors unlikely to say kids too heavy

Los Angeles Times


Parents can sometimes be clueless about the fact that their kids are too heavy, but doctors may not be steering them in the right direction: A study finds that less than one-quarter of parents recollect their health-care providers telling them their children were overweight.

From 1999 to 2008, 4,985 parents of children age 2 to 15 who had a body mass index in the 85th percentile or higher were asked if they had ever been told by a physician or health professional that their child was overweight.

Overall, 22.4 percent of parents reported they had been told. Percentages tended to be higher among minorities, older children, poorer children and those who had public insurance and logged more health- care visits.

Although no differences were seen between boys and girls, more parents reported being told of their child’s weight later in the study. In 1999 it was reported by 19.4 percent of parents, by 23.4 percent in 2004 and by 29.1 percent from 2007 to 2008.

Among parents of very obese kids, 58 percent said they got a heads-up from a doctor about their child’s weight.

“Parents might be more motivated to follow healthy eating and activity advice if they knew their children were overweight, but very few parents of overweight children say they have ever heard that from their doctor,” said lead author Dr. Eliana Perrin, associate professor in the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill School of Medicine.

Although the study authors said they’re not sure why the numbers have risen, they said it might be because the definition of what constitutes an overweight or obese child has become more clear in recent years.

“As health-care providers, it’s our job to screen for overweight and obesity and communicate those screening results in sensitive ways, and we are clearly either not doing it or not doing it in a way that families can hear or remember,” Dr. Perrin added.

The study was released online Monday by the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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