Brenner Children’s Hospital is opening the region’s first and most comprehensive pediatric obesity program. Called Brenner FIT (Families in Training), the program has several components, including a year-long intensive treatment program for overweight children with an underlying medical problem.
Joseph Skelton, M.D., a pediatric gastroenterologist and national obesity expert, joined the faculty in August to head the center.
“We are very excited about Dr. Skelton’s arrival,” said Jon S. Abramson, M.D., physician-in-chief of the children’s hospital. “He has a national reputation for his work with pediatric obesity and is doing novel research in the area of childhood obesity.”
Skelton comes to Brenner’s from Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and the Medical College of Wisconson, where he headed an obesity program for four years.
“The Brenner FIT program will provide comprehensive, holistic, family-centered medical treatment for morbidly obese patients in the region,” Skelton said. “Our program is comprised of medical care, research, community education and outreach. Early next year, we hope to include a surgical component to Brenner FIT as well.”
Skelton and his team are also part of the Collaborative to Strengthen Families and Neighborhoods. The collaborative is a partnership between the children’s hospital and the YWCA. This program was developed as a learning lab which engages the community in developing and testing potential solutions for important child health issues. The first health issue the collaborative will focus on is childhood obesity.
Brenner FIT will offer community education classes for children who are overweight but do not meet the requirements for the intensive, year-long program.
“Obesity has become such an extremely serious issue in this nation,” Skelton said. “My team works to help patients understand that by making healthier choices they improve their overall lives in a significant way. And many times those choices are small ones – but ones that can have a huge impact on their overall health status. We work with the family very closely. Parents have to be on-board and participate in every aspect of our program.”
Brenner FIT works with families to identify habits to change and then help them restructure their lives in a way that promotes physical fitness, healthy eating habits and overall wellness. Skelton consults with other pediatric specialists at Brenner Children’s Hospital to treat children with high cholesterol, diabetes, sleep apnea and other obesity-related diseases. His team includes a behavior specialist, a physical therapist, a dietitian, and a nurse case manager. He accepts referrals to his intensive, year-long program from referring physicians. Patients who qualify for the intensive program are classified as obese (body mass index is greater than 95 percentile for age and gender) and have an associated medical condition as a result.
In addition to the Brenner FIT program, Skelton is working with pediatric surgeons at the children’s hospital to offer the state’s only adolescent bariatric surgery program for children. This program is an option for morbidly obese teens who, despite the family’s best efforts, are not improving their weight or their health. Teens are considered for surgery only after they have actively participated in the Brenner FIT program for four to six months. The first surgery is expected to take place in summer of 2008, Skelton said.
Brenner FIT accepts patients ages 2 to 18.
Brenner Children’s Hospital is part of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. For more information, visit www.brennerchildrens.org or call 716-2255 or 1-800-446-2255.
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About Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center: Wake Forest Baptist is an academic health system comprised of North Carolina Baptist Hospital, Wake Forest University School of Medicine and Brenner Children’s Hospital. It is licensed to operate 1,154 acute care, rehabilitation, psychiatry and long-term care beds and is consistently ranked as one of “America’s Best Hospitals” by U.S. News & World Report.
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