Along with everything else, the pandemic has changed children’s waistlines. Since spring 2020, “the number of patients we are seeing with obesity and related health problems has gone up, and the amount of weight kids have been gaining is rising as well,” says Melissa Woo, MD, pediatric endocrinologist and medical director of the Kid-FIT program at Goryeb Children’s Hospital.
“Kids were snacking more and moving less as they spent more time at home. Virtual learning often meant sitting in a chair all day, instead of moving between classes and going to recess. That activity seems small but when it went away, we definitely saw the consequences.”
Kid-FIT helps each patient find and maintain a healthy new normal. Children, adolescents and parents learn to make nutritional changes, incorporate physical activity in everyday life, and get emotional and social support to help them reach their goals.
Patients in Kid-FIT meet with a registered dietitian nutritionist to set lifestyle modifications. Patients in Kid- FITMED meet with a physician, advanced practice nurse, and social worker, as needed. Both Kid-FITMED and Kid-FIT are operating virtually and in-person during the pandemic.
“In the Kid-FIT program, we work with patients to find a diet and activities they enjoy and can incorporate consistently,” Dr. Woo says.
A personal trainer is available to help build an activity plan around the patient’s interests. That might be sports such as soccer or basketball, or other activities, including martial arts and dance. Kid-FITMED is designed for patients with obesity-related health problems such as insulin resistance or cholesterol problems, and for patients who struggle despite changes in diet and activity. Dr. Woo discusses additional treatment options with families when they are indicated, including weight-loss medications and bariatric surgery.
Bariatric surgery for adolescents is available at Overlook Medical Center and, as of this summer, at Goryeb Children’s Hospital. The Goryeb team achieved prestigious designation by the American College of Surgeons Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program (MBSAQIP), acknowledging the hospital’s commitment to quality improvement and patient safety.
“We are now able to do bariatric surgery for patients 15 years and up when they are appropriate candidates,” Dr. Woo says.
Seeing children and adolescents reach their goals is “incredibly gratifying,” Dr. Woo says. “When it clicks with them and their families and you see their excitement as they reach what everyone in the room has been working toward, that is just an amazing thing.”