All About HELP
HELP in a Nutshell
January 14, 2006
This is Dr. Judy recording my first healthcast on the topic of pediatric and adolescent obesity. As a pediatric endocrinologist, a specialist on diabetes and other hormonal disorders, I witnessed, first hand, an alarming trend developing in both my inner city and private practice patients beginning in the early 1990’s. Patients were developing Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and triglycerides, and risk factors for future heart disease. Before now, these diseases were pretty much thought of to be diseases of the elderly. The dual of epidemic of obesity and diabetes has been named diabesity. This generation of our children has been named Generation XXL, as in extra, extra large and our children are predicted to live shorter lives than their parents. According to the Centers of Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health roughly 2 million American children ages 12-19 have diabetes or prediabetes, a sobering statistic. 1 out of every 4 children under the age of 17 is overweight or obese and 1 out of 3 children born in the year 2000 will get diabetes in their lifetime. In Hispanic, African American, and Asian children this may be an underestimate and experts are predicting one out of 2 children might be at risk.
How did this happen? Our society’s atrocious eating habits and sedentary lifestyles have trickled down to our most vulnerable precious citizens, our children. Children see 400,000 commercials a year marketing products that are high in calories, sugar, salt and fats and have little to no nutritious value. Billions of dollars are spent having our children vie for products that are bad for them compared to the measly money available marketing the 5 a day campaign, promoting fruits and vegetables.
Who is at risk? Being overweight means that your child has a body mass index, or BMI, that is above the 95% for his or her age. A BMI of 85% puts them at risk for being overweight. BMI is derived by dividing their weight in lbs over their height in inches, squared. Multiple this fraction by a conversion factor of 703. BMI growth charts can be downloaded from the CDC website @ www.cdc.gov. Not all children with a high BMI are at risk. Some very athletic, muscular children may have increased BMI’s, but the vast majority of children need some weight management advice. I encourage you to ask your pediatrician to monitor and track your child’s BMI to ensure they stay in a healthy range.
Some children born to mothers with gestational diabetes and children born small for gestational age are especially at risk. Also if your child is far taller than would be predicted from family heights, or is developing pubertal changes far earlier than predicted, it may be as a result of overeating, and they too are at risk.
Obesity related annual hospital costs for children have tripled in two decades, rising to 127 million. Estimated hospital costs in America for adults and children exceed 117 billion. Globally the costs are in the trillions. The laundry list of diseases associated with obesity are Type II diabetes, metabolic syndrome or prediabetes, high blood pressure, high TG and cholesterol values, depression, menstrual abnormalities, skeletal abnormalities, and a future elevated risk for cancers such as breast, endometrial, colon, kidney, pancreatic, liver etc. More alarmingly, it has been demonstrated that the complications of diabetes occur in an accelerated fashion when diabetes presents in youth. As young adults, our children will be at risk for early heart attacks, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and limb amputation.
This statistics are mind boggling and should alert us that we all need to fix this mess. This healthcare tsunami will soon hit our shores. We have no time to be complacent.
Many pediatricians simply recommend that overweight patients diet and exercise. This prescription has been obviously ineffective. Patients return with 25-30 lb weight gains every year.
Could this be your child? The children I have worked with and their parents have communicated their guilt, confusion and feelings of being powerless. After 9 years of treating patients individually in my offices and clinic, I too was frustrated with suboptimal results. I realized that offering families a more comprehensive program would make sense. HELP the Healthy Eating Lifestyle Program or Healthy Eating Loses Pounds was launched in Connecticut 2 years ago and I have great news. HELP works.
HELP is an intensive, medically based nutrition and lifestyle management program. It is a unique and powerful solution to treating and reversing obesity related risk factors in our 9-19 year olds. HELP targets a future of good health for our children.
HELP participants and their families learn the fundamentals of how to survive in our toxic, obesity-prone society. It prescribes a low glycemic index, moderate carbohydrate eating plan with an emphasis on banishing trans fats and high fructose corn syrup and returning to whole foods. It incorporates a philosophy that eating healthily for life (not going on a diet) will pay off in spades. The program includes advice on increasing activity, understanding exercise is a priority, on how to develop a successful environment, on how to label read and grocery shop. We review emotional eating and body image issues and then go on to Life 101, that is, how to eat out, survive school lunch programs, and then we go on to strategize on what to eat during vacations, at holidays and at parties.
My program has helped hundreds of 9-19 year olds reverse their obesity related risk factors, removing the fear that they will face an unhealthy future and a reduced life span. Our workshops are available in Connecticut at our Pediatric Healthcare Associates Southport Office and in the Norwalk and Greenwich YMCAs. I am also excited to inform you that we have developed an online version of HELP so that children outside Connecticut can benefit from our medically based program. Please visit me online at www.askdrjudy.com for more information.
I also welcome any comments or suggestions for future healthcasts by e-mailing me @ email@example.com.
My many thanks to Monika Herzig for the lovely music accompanying this show and thanks for tuning in.