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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

“March with my pediatrician”, a unique method to combat childhood obesity

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City Council physical education teacher Leire Ahedo with the minors at the end-of-year party “March with my pediatrician” in the courtyard of the General Hospital of Valencia.KIKE TABERNER

The pediatrician Julio Álvarez Pitti used to run or walk with his daughters along the Valencia River, which, like thousands of citizens, has been transformed into a garden. One day, five years ago, he invited some children who were his patients in the Obesity and Cardiovascular Risk Unit of the General Hospital to go out and do some physical activity with him. It was a good experience. Then he considered integrating this activity into the innovative Paido program of the pediatric service of the Valencian Center, aimed at preventing and combating childhood obesity. It has been documented and confirmed that a similar initiative is already working successfully in the US, Walk with a Doc (go to a doctor). After the knowledge had been gathered and the needs analyzed, the Marching with my pediatrician Paidowith encouraging results.

Pediatricians, patients, and their families meet outside of the hospital setting every Thursday of the week throughout the year to walk, run, play, and get to know each other better. “Results over the past two years demonstrate that the program is helping to achieve treatment goals. Logically, we observed a better response in those who adhered more closely to the program,” explains Álvarez, Clinical Director of the Obesity and Cardiovascular Risks Unit of the aforementioned Valencia Hospital and OBN researcher at CIBER. About 50 families take part every year.

But the most important thing is to change the family’s lifestyle, which increases the likelihood of overweight recovery. Obesity is a disease that increases the risk of developing other diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. According to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs’ Aladino study, which included 16,665 school children between the ages of 6 and 9, the prevalence of obesity was 18%. This makes obesity the most common chronic disease in childhood. In addition, childhood obesity is a key risk factor for having a cardiovascular event (stroke, heart attack, cerebral hemorrhage…) in adulthood. That is why it is very important to influence children, and especially parents, to change habits and behavioral patterns, both in terms of diet and physical activity, adds Álvarez.

“The walks and the contact with the patients are very beneficial. It’s a relaxed environment, children and parents learn. We speak to them. All these interactions are important,” explains María Isabel Torró, a fundamental pillar of the program. You and Álvarez promoted Marching with my pediatrician by the Pediatric Service, supported by the hospital management, experts from the City Council of Valencia and the Municipal Sports Foundation. The involvement of public health professionals is essential to carry out such a project.

Pediatrician Julio Álvarez Pitti at the closing party “Marchando con mi pediatra” at the General Hospital of Valencia.
Pediatrician Julio Álvarez Pitti at the closing party “Marchando con mi pediatra” at the General Hospital of Valencia.Kike Taberner

“My daughter’s problem is that she is very anxious. You can eat food off other people’s plates,” explains José, father of Nuria, a 14-year-old teenager playing in the courtyard of the General Hospital. It’s the year-end party Marching with my pediatrician, took place last week. All children have prizes to encourage them. They look funny between the gym teacher and the pediatricians. Many wear the red shirts of the paido program.

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“Our eight-year-old son Andreu likes to eat and eats a lot. Don’t stop Being cooped up at home has been tough during the pandemic. He’s better now,” emphasize Empar and Emilio, looking at the boy. They also take part in the cooking workshop organized by Paido, led by Vicente Granell, a key element in the nutritional part of the program. “He likes vegetables very little; Chickpeas, nothing, but he loves hummus,” the parents add.

Yéssica’s son suffers from diabetes. Like the other mothers consulted, she expresses her gratitude to the paediatricians and the system that has been put in place. They know that parental involvement is essential. Everything goes through them. Francisco has lost up to 40 pounds since his overweight 11-year-old daughter started the program. The family has changed their previous culinary habits. It has become aware of this and is acting accordingly. The father realizes that the change started from himself.

Nutrition expert Vicente Granell states that “the main problem is the lack of knowledge about what constitutes a healthy diet”. “There’s a tendency in our society to prioritize social overeating, saturated fats, high-sugar foods, and highly processed foods,” he explains. In the workshop he leads, he teaches “the basic principles of a balanced, healthy diet”, how to read product labels “which give a lot of information”, and how to teach children (and many parents) about the taste of legumes, e.g. that they not enter with the lightness of the dreaded sugar. He is also involved in figuring out how to cook healthy meals.

This activity is carried out within the hospital in collaboration with the Consum supermarket cooperative and as part of the Paido program. This is a comprehensive childhood obesity care program led by a multidisciplinary team. The pediatricians of the Pediatric Service are also part of the Ciber OBN network, a network of excellence linked to the Carlos III Institute in Madrid, which facilitates the rapid implementation of advances in knowledge in clinical practice, the pediatrician points out.

During counseling, the family context and the causes of obesity should be well known. “The first is that the family is aware of the problem. We conduct a motivational interview. Unlike the surgeon, whose tool is the scalpel, we have the floor. There is no pill worth taking here,” says Julio Álvarez.

Obesity is a very complex disease that requires a multidisciplinary approach, he adds. One of the factors that has contributed to its high prevalence in recent years is consumer habits and screen abuse. “Recreational screen misuse has been shown to be associated with less physical activity. I insist: excessive use of screens in leisure time is bad for your health, it reduces hours of activity and other things to do, it is a time thief terrible that an addiction develops. Children want to be in front of the screen more than they want to play with others. We also checked the connection between the fear of snacking and, for example, screen abuse,” says Dr. Álvarez, promoter of Marching with my pediatricianthe only Spanish program with the certificate go with a doc.

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Source elpais.com

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