Jump Start: New Program Gets Severely Obese Children Treated Faster

For immediate release: July 21, 2014

childhood obesity

BALTIMORE, MD – Clinicians in the groundbreaking Weigh Smart® program at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital have added a new program designed to get severely obese children and their families in for treatment as quickly as possible.

"Our aim is to get families in early in a child's life and quickly -- before a child develops serious complications from obesity," says Michelle Demeule-Hayes, Director of the Center for Pediatric Weight Management and Healthy Living.

The Weigh Smart® Jump Start program lasts for 4-weeks and offers both educational and group exercise sessions for children and their families. "The goal of Jump Start is to get families in quickly for that initial education that is so important, and then offer additional services tailored to each family's individual needs," Demeule-Hayes adds.

Under Jump Start, after their initial assessment, the patient can join the next Jump Start class, instead of waiting perhaps several weeks for the next group session.

Previously, the most recent childhood obesity program added was Weigh Smart® Jr. in 2009. That program, targeting children in the two to seven-year-old range, was added when clinicians noticed younger siblings of patients with obesity were also overweight or obese.

"The typical Weigh Smart Jr. patient who now comes to us is 5 years old and weighs about 100 lbs.," says Demeule-Hayes. "We need to treat children earlier than ever before."

Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital is one of 118 children's hospitals in the U.S. that contributed to a recent Children's Hospital Association report on the evolving field of obesity treatment in children's hospitals.

The report, "2013 Survey Findings of Children's Hospitals Obesity Services," outlines why such programs are critical for tackling the nationwide health epidemic.

In Baltimore City, the problem is widespread. The City Health Department released statistics on a random sample of 2,143 students assessed for BMI by BCHD School Health staff-- more than a quarter (26%) of the children in the study were considered obese. Furthermore, for Pre-K and K students, the rates were significantly higher for obesity than for all other grades (31%).

Nationwide, more than one-third of children are overweight or obese, making it the most widespread public health issue facing children. Over the last 30 years, obesity rates have more than doubled in young children and quadrupled in teens.

Programs also report that childhood obesity has been identified as an issue of community need in their hospital's most recent community health needs assessment.

In 2005, Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital started one of the earliest programs with a comprehensive approach that also addressed the psychological components involved in being a child with a weight issue.

Through Weigh Smart®, Weigh Smart® Jr., Jump Start and the Adolescent Bariatric Surgery Evaluation and Management program that partners with Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, MWPH is working to meet the growing health needs of our community and to improve the current and future health of our children.

The CHA report is a first step toward obtaining a better understanding of what works in weight management and what programs prove to be the most sustainable. www.childrenshospitals.net/obesitysurvey.