National protocols key to improving hospital management of childhood obesity


Introducing standardised protocols for childhood obesity management and screening for hospital inpatients could help improve outcomes says a researcher who has recently surveyed over 60 hospitals.

A child has their height measured

A child has their height measured. Inset: Clinical Associate Professor Dr Habib Bhurawala (left) and Associate Professor Gary Leong (right)

Clinical Associate Professor Dr Habib Bhurawala, one of the lead researchers of a study published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, says the results highlight the need to improve screening and management of paediatric inpatients across all hospitals, something the development of a national protocol could help regulate.

“Introducing a national protocol has the ability to improve consistency in screening and identification of obesity, promote evidence-based interventions for management and facilitate better referral pathways to outpatient services,” says Habib, who is Head of Paediatrics at Nepean Hospital.

Childhood or paediatric obesity is a contributor to various medical and social problems including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, respiratory problems, hypertension, self-esteem and poor mental health and quality of life.

Studies demonstrate that early intervention, especially before the age of 12 years can moderate the long-term risks of obesity.

The survey, conducted by Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District researchers, examined current national clinical practices in hospitals and aims to inform the future development of a more unified approach to identify children with obesity in hospital inpatients.

100 hospitals were approached to complete the survey, with 68 respondents (one per hospital) representing the views of metropolitan, rural and regional facilities across each state and territory.

The research found across a number of settings that there were inconsistencies in obtaining weight measurements and BMI calculations. Interventions also varied from hospital to hospital, and there is a need for more educational tools for health care professionals and support for a national protocol to manage childhood obesity.

Co-investigator on the study, Associate Professor Gary Leong says despite the findings Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District was uniquely placed to provide some of its youngest patients comprehensive and holistic obesity management services, putting children and their parents on a path to a healthier and better-quality of life.

“We are fortunate to have an integrated Family Metabolic Health Service (FMHS) in our District which helps people living with severe and complicated obesity to achieve better health,” says Gary, who is also a Paediatric Endocrinologist and the Clinical Lead for Kids Fit 4 Future clinic at FMHS.

“The Service is unique because it focuses on the whole lifespan, including families. A holistic approach to individuals and families can help to break the cycle of obesity and its wide-ranging complications.”

A number of programs are already in place across NBMLHD to reduce obesity in children including the Kids Fit 4 Future Clinic and Go4Fun.

Full findings from the study are available to view online.

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