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Duke Medicine: Healthy Lifestyles program offers help for overweight kids

Duke’s Healthy Lifestyles Program works to educate overweight children and their families about a new way of coping in a world where everything comes super-sized.

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Duke Medicine
Duke’s Healthy Lifestyles Program works to educate overweight children and their families about a new way of coping in a world where everything comes super-sized. Dr. Sarah Armstrong, a pediatrication at Duke, is the leader of the program. She offers some tips and more information about what Duke offers families:

There are many ways you and your family can start at home to live a healthier lifestyle. For example:

  • Remove the TV from your child’s room. Did you know that simply having a TV in a child’s bedroom increases their risk of being overweight?
  • Avoid high-fructose corn syrup. Did you know that most “sugar” sweetened beverages are not sweetened with sugar, but with high fructose corn syrup? This can blunt your feeling of fullness, and lead to increased consumption.
  • Read food labels to see what’s really in there. A bottle of “fruit drink” often has less than 2 percent juice, and as many as 22 teaspoons of sugar!

However, these changes can be difficult, confusing, or hard to incorporate into daily life. Parents also worry that their child may suffer a medical condition causing their weight problem, or that their child’s weight is the result of a medication or a toxin exposure.

Many children have been referred for many services only to be told they have to lose weight, but given no guidance.

To help families navigate this complex system, Duke University School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics elected to concentrate significant resources to combat the epidemic of childhood obesity. This led to the creation of the Center of Nutritional Disorders and Obesity in 2005.

The center's four key components include direct clinical care for families and children struggling with weight and health issues; advocacy; education; and research.

Center faculty meet monthly to design and carry out important clinical trials to understand the causes for and to effectively treat childhood obesity.

The Healthy Lifestyles Program is the cornerstone of clinical care provided to overweight children and their families. Healthy Lifestyles is a multidisciplinary, evidence-based, family-centered approach to treating obesity.

The program is designed to provide comprehensive evaluation and management services to families from all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. The structure of the program includes an initial assessment to provide a health risk factor profile, followed by monthly visits to the clinic for ongoing family lifestyle intervention.

The family’s “Healthy Lifestyle Team” includes a medical provider, a dietitian with certification in childhood weight management, and family support services as needed.

The monthly visits use the proven technique known as “motivational interviewing,” which has been validated for weight loss in children. We also provide written materials at each visit, which are based on approved Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for preventing chronic disease in children.

At each visit, the child receives a “fit kit” to facilitate the goal. Examples include a water bottle, a jump rope, a pedometer, or a resistance band.

After completion of the program, patients are seen bi-annually for ongoing education and surveillance for chronic disease. The program costs are only your primary care co-payment, and all insurance types are accepted.

To make an appointment at Healthy Lifestyles, please call us at 1-866-530-5356 or 919- 620-5356. To learn more about the program, please call 919- 620-5394.
To read more about this and other children's health issues, check the Your Child's Health section on dukehealth.org.

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