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Health care providers trained to communicate more effectively about childhood obesity

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When talking about childhood obesity, health care providers aren’t getting the message across to their patients. Practical steps for improving habits are often lost in translation, child wellness experts say.

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Pediatric Dietician Kristen Middleton (center) takes notes as food and nutrition consultant Ingrid Knight addresses a gathering of health care professionals.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Pediatric Dietician Kristen Middleton (center) takes notes as food and nutrition consultant Ingrid Knight addresses a gathering of health care professionals.

Helping doctors, nurses and dieticians have a difficult conversation with children and their parents about losing weight, eating better and exercising more was the subject of a two-hour training session Tuesday in Augusta.

About 40 area health care providers attended the Salvation Army Kroc Center event held by Strong4Life, a public health initiative of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to combat childhood obesity in Georgia.

“Health care providers are uncomfortable having that conversation and a lot of times they don’t have time to have that conversation,” said Ashley Skorcz, program coordinator.

A more effective conversation provides the doctor time to assess the child’s behavior and risks and share that information with the patient and parent, Skorcz said. That should be followed by allowing the patient to make a goal and making sure the patient has tools needed to meet the goal.

Dr. Stephanie Walsh, the medical director of child wellness at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, said doctors tend to speak about broad end goals rather than giving small, practical steps for changing health habits.

“Primary care doctors are so busy and they don’t have much time with a patient,” Walsh said Tuesday by phone. “These are really just tweaks on our interactions that will help families realize their goals.”


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