The Healthy Lifestyles Program at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children was created to address and fight the growing epidemic of childhood obesity by focusing on nutrition, physical activity and mental wellbeing. The program takes a family-centered approach to losing weight and leading a healthy lifestyle for children with pediatric obesity and managing its complications. Led by director Shaista Safder, MD, the program offers an individualized patient approach while utilizing the expertise of a multidisciplinary team, including physicians board certified in obesity medicine and sports medicine, registered dieticians, a psychologist, a social worker and an exercise specialist.
The program accepts patients between the ages of 2-18 years of age who meet criteria based on a body mass index (BMI) for age greater than or equal to 85th percentile, and a willingness to commit to regular appointments for a period that is determined based on their medical presentation. Patients can expect an initial screening visit, where a physician completes a physical evaluation, reviews a child’s and family medical history, and addresses any gastrointestinal issues and medical complications that correlate with obesity. Subsequently a tiered approach is taken that includes a structured diet, lifestyle intervention, exploring and navigating psycho-social factors that may be contributing and in select cases may escalate to pharmacotherapy and bariatric surgery for a minority of the most refractory patients.
The program also emphasizes inclusive fitness and addresses pediatric obesity concerns in patients with disabilities who may require a more tailored approach to management.
Recognizing the need for a child’s environment, family and home structure to be conducive to weight loss, throughout the year “Weekend Wellness Workshops” are offered free of charge to participating children and their families. These workshops provide ongoing education on diet, food prep, physical activity and metal wellbeing, and are conducted in group settings. They provide an additional resource for families to take advantage of for further community support. The workshops encourage families to have fun while creatively building healthy habits together, like eating more fruit and vegetables.
Here’s what a few of the participants have to say about the experience:
“We’ve been able to do this as a family. We’re all taking the extra effort to eat right and to exercise more regularly. Even though our daughter Emily is the patient, we all get to take advantage of it,” says Mr. Gerwig.
“It gives us the time to be together as a family. Before, we might have been sitting around watching TV, doing our own thing. But now, the exercises allow us to take 15-20 minutes during the day and go out to walk around the neighborhood together as a family.”
Families enjoy building better, healthier habits together. Whether adding a walk into their daily routine, or having fun while making a new healthy recipe, the Healthy Lifestyles Program gives families a goal-oriented way to engage in healthy practices and come together as a family.
“We aim to educate, empower and encourage lifelong healthy behaviors that promote health and wellbeing for all children. Effective management of childhood obesity is not achieved by a single intervention, but by integrated multicomponent approaches involving education in order to empower individual children and their families while reducing obesogenic risk factors in their environment through practical tools. We are able to do this with the help of a dedicated team and generous support from sponsors who share our vision. It is an immensely rewarding experience to witness a child’s transformation as they adopt a healthy lifestyle and improve their health,” says Shaista Safder, MD.
Thanks to a generous grant from the Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation, our Healthy Lifestyles Program is now able to offer several long-anticipated resources to patients and families. Among many things, the grant has provided funding to purchase adaptive exercise equipment for the clinic and dieticians to collaborate with afterschool educational programs throughout the community. In addition, the team has developed a four-part bilingual video series and an application for patients all with the goal to encourage self-motivation and self-management in their own healthy lifestyles.
Thanks to a generous grant from the Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation, our Healthy Lifestyles Program has developed a four-part bilingual video series for our patients and community members. Our goal is to encourage self-motivation and self-management in your own healthy lifestyles.