Study: Doctors Falling Short on Screenings for Overweight Teens


Pediatricians often neglect to conduct screenings for nutrition, exercise and emotional issues with teenagers who are overweight, focusing those screenings instead on obese teens, according to a study by UC-San Francisco researchers, Reuters reports (Pittman, Reuters, 7/18).

For the study, researchers looked at the frequency that such screenings occurred among 9,220 children ages 12 through 17 who participated in the 2003, 2005 and 2007 California Health Interview Surveys. The results are scheduled to be published in the August issue of Pediatrics.

Key Findings

The study found that obese teens were 40% more likely than normal-weight teens to report screenings related to their physical activity level and were 60% more likely to report screenings related to nutrition.

However, overweight teens were no more likely than normal-weight teens to receive screenings for physical activity or nutrition, the study found.

In addition, researchers found that overall screening rates have declined in recent years. They noted that between 2003 and 2007, screenings for physical activity and nutrition decreased by 50% and screenings for emotional distress declined by 30%.


Researchers suggested that some of the factors impeding higher screening rates for overweight teens could be short visit times, low reimbursement rates and a lack of local resources for pediatric weight management (Phend, MedPage Today, 7/18).

Carolyn Bradner Jasik, lead author of the study, said that preventive screenings could prevent overweight teens from adopting behaviors that could lead to obesity (Reuters, 7/18).

The study concluded, "Until we can provide pediatricians with the tools, reimbursement and time to intervene in pediatric obesity, primary care remains a missed opportunity in the prevention of obesity" (MedPage Today, 7/18).
Robert Forster
I agree that obesity on population health is staggering and is not given enough attention in general. However, to focus on the docs who see the child/patient for a short time, one cannot expect effective intervention. Like cigarettes in Ca., we need intense public awareness and media support along with sensible school PE requirements to change our culture and ultimate mitigate disease and medical costs. For tobacco, the PEOPLE changed our culture, not legislators. Physicans can help but my 22 years of trying, showed little success until the person made quitting a priority.

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