Getting Primary Care Physicians to Address Childhood Obesity

National survey of current physician screening and referral practices for childhood obesity

In two related projects, researchers at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry carried out research to find the best ways to encourage primary care physicians to screen and treat childhood obesity in their practices and their communities.

First, they conducted surveys of pediatricians and family practice physicians, asking them about how they manage obesity in their practices. Then, through a series of follow-up activities, the researchers worked with the American Academy of Pediatrics to develop and implement ways to encourage physicians to address childhood obesity.

Key Findings: Findings on their survey of pediatricians appear in a paper slated for publication in Pediatrics in 2010, entitled "Adoption of BMI Guidelines for Screening and Counseling in Pediatric Practice."

Findings of their survey of family practitioners appear in an unpublished paper entitled "Screening and Counseling for Childhood Obesity: Results of a National Survey."

  • Nearly all pediatricians (99%) surveyed routinely measured children's height and weight, but only about half (52%) used this information to calculate children's body mass index (BMI)—a measure used to diagnose obesity.
  • Some 45 percent of family practice physicians plotted BMI at all or most visits with children ages 2 and older.
  • Most physicians—67 percent of pediatricians and 61 percent of family practice physicians—said they did not have enough time during office visits to counsel patients on weight management.

Key Results:

  • The researchers retooled the obesity website of the American Academy of Pediatrics to make it easier for front-line caregivers, parents and others to navigate the site. The updated site includes information on policies and projects in local communities and links to other websites.