Dell Medical School and Seton collaborate to target childhood obesity

Areeba Khwaja

A Dell Children’s Medical Center and Dell Medical School collaboration is remodeling a program targeting childhood obesity in January 2018.

The Dell Medical School Department of Population Health and UT-Austin’s Department of Nutrition will expand Dell Children’s previous focus on nutrition and exercise to include monitoring the diseases that sometimes accompany obesity.

According to Dell Children’s, the new program will give children access to kidney, heart, stomach, liver, hormone and mental health specialists. The program’s dietitians will direct counseling and online resources to target childhood obesity. Dr. Steven Abrams, chair of Dell Medical’s Department of Pediatrics, leads the program.

“Our belief is that obesity does not respond simply to dieting at any age,” Abrams said. “Rather, a comprehensive lifestyle change is needed with medical monitoring and care as (it’s) needed for the complications of obesity.”

According to the CDC, obese children are at a greater risk for developing secondary chronic health issues such as diabetes, joint problems, sleep apnea and kidney malfunction.

In a press release, Deb Brown, the chief operating officer of Dell Children’s, said she is looking forward to working with specialists at Dell Medical School.

“With (experts from Dell Med), we can approach obesity both from the prevention stages to the more advanced levels of chronic disease,” Brown said.

Registered dietitian Stacey Arnold said this partnership has the potential to reduce a host of medical complications that could otherwise become life-threatening conditions as these children enter adulthood.

“Childhood obesity treatment and prevention begins by providing nutrition education to the entire family and implementing small, sustainable changes to daily routine,” Arnold said. “This area of dietetics is especially interesting to me, and I would love to work with children and their families in this sector.”

The program will develop a range of family-centered programs that focus on healthy eating, exercise and education, according to Abrams. This includes increasing awareness about reading food labels and purchasing healthier food options for people on a limited budget.

“We are hoping to engage children of all ages in this program and develop both prevention and treatment programs that involve a large number of pediatricians and other health care providers in central Texas,” Abrams said.

Both Abrams and Arnold said they are looking forward to the program’s focus on a holistic approach to fight child obesity.

“I can’t wait to see the healthy benefits this program will bring to Austin area children and their families,” Arnold said.