Research Activities March 2013, No. 391

Pediatricians need to make greater efforts to screen and counsel overweight adolescent

Child/Adolescent Health

With the number of overweight and obese adolescents increasing, more needs to be done to screen these individuals and provide counseling. However, a new study finds that although obese adolescents are more likely to receive counseling on diet and exercise compared to normal-weight adolescents, overweight adolescents are being counseled at a much lower rate than their obese peers. Lan Liang, Ph.D., of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and colleagues studied obesity counseling among 6,911 adolescent girls and 6,970 boys aged 11 to 17 years with parent-reported height and weight information. All adolescents had at least one visit with a health care provider within the past year. Parents of the adolescents were surveyed to determine if their child had received diet and exercise counseling and when it took place.

A total of 17 percent of boys were overweight and 17 percent were obese. Girls had lower rates of 14 percent and 11 percent, respectively. Pediatric health professionals advised 47 percent of girls and 44 percent of boys to eat healthy. However, they only recommended 36 percent of boys and girls to exercise. Compared to their normal-weight peers, obese boys and girls were more likely to receive advice on how to eat healthy and to exercise more. But boys and girls who were overweight were much less likely to be counseled about such matters than those who were obese. Factors associated with receiving exercise and diet counseling from a provider included living in the northeast, coming from higher-income households, having college-educated parents, and having a usual source of medical care. Since obesity is easier to prevent than treat, more work is needed to encourage providers to counsel adolescents about diet and exercise matters before adolescents become obese, suggest the study authors.

More details are in "Obesity counseling by pediatric health professionals: an assessment using nationally representative data," by Dr. Liang, Chad Meyerhoefer, Ph.D., and Justin Wang, Ph.D., in the July 2012 Pediatrics 139(1), pp. 67-77. Reprints (AHRQ Publication No. 12-R096) are available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse.


Page last reviewed March 2013
Page originally created March 2013
Internet Citation: Pediatricians need to make greater efforts to screen and counsel overweight adolescent. Content last reviewed March 2013. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.