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Children’s fitness clinic opens at U.Va.

To combat the problem of childhood obesity, the U.Va. Children’s Medical Center has opened the Commonwealth of Virginia’s first integrated weight-management clinic for children.

The Children’s Fitness Clinic will offer a comprehensive medical evaluation and an intensive lifestyle-modification program for overweight children and teens. The team administering this care will include a pediatric endocrinologist and nephrologist, an exercise physiologist, a nutritionist, a nurse practitioner, a psychologist and a pediatric surgeon qualified to perform bariatric surgery.

“Our focus is not only on the medical problems associated with childhood obesity, but also on providing an integrated program to improve dietary habits, increase physical activity and build self-
esteem,” said Dr. Milagros Huerta, assistant professor of pediatrics and co-medical director of the clinic.

After an initial evaluation at the Primary Care Center, patients and their parents will be given the opportunity to participate in a six-month lifestyle-modification program, held at the Kluge Children’s Rehabilitation Center. This program will include brief, individual follow-up visits with team members to monitor the child’s progress, as well as weekly group sessions covering different aspects of nutrition, physical activity and behavioral modification. Patients who are unable to take part in the lifestyle-modification program will receive periodic follow-up by phone or e-mail from various team members. Medical follow-up visits will be determined by the severity of the overweight status and the travel distance for each patient.

“The hardest part is to work with the families closely, to ‘convince them’ or ‘get them engaged’ in doing this, and [to provide] help along the road because any behavioral change is difficult and takes a lot of effort and willpower on their part,” Huerta said.

“Patients who are morbidly obese and who do not improve with lifestyle modification may be referred for surgical consultation,” she added.
The Children’s Fitness Clinic is open to children of all ages. Most of the clinic’s patients will come by way of physician referrals.


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