In the U.S. one-in-five children and teens is obese, but in Louisiana, that number jumps to one-in-three.
Now, there is a chance for families in southeast Louisiana to get free weight management treatment and counseling. It's part of a study that could become a national health care model.
It's a weight loss opportunity that could change the future health of hundreds of children and teens in southeast Louisiana.
"This is really a serious disease, and I think this project will help to treat obesity as a disease," said Dr. Amanda Staiano, a Psychologist and Child Obesity expert at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge. She is the primary investigator for the Louisiana portion of the study.
Pennington is one of only three places in the country awarded a grant to treat childhood obesity. It is a five-year, $4.5 million award by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). Children six to 15 years old can enroll in the long-term health and weight management program. Researchers will compare those just getting treatment from their own pediatrician or family practitioner, to those getting that same doctor treatment, in addition to counseling for the entire family. As many as 432 families can join the PCORI study for free, and for a year and a half, all you have to do is go to your own doctor's office for the treatment.
"We know that children can be more successful in losing weight if their parents are really committed to making changes for themselves as well," Dr. Staiano said of past research.
Kahlan Francis, 14, can see the benefit to getting weight support from her doctor as well as for the entire family.
"It'd be more comfortable. You can say more private things with your doctor alone, but with your family, you could have like everybody helping each other out, which could be more beneficial," said Francis who will be a high school freshman.
Doctors know that early intervention with weight is crucial for physical and emotional health throughout life.
"With obesity often comes higher rates of heart disease, of diabetes, and also with these children, they're starting to develop asthma, sleep apnea, physical pains, joint pains, muscle pain. We know kids tend to get bullied and stigmatized because of their obesity," Dr. Staiano said.