At a briefing in Temple Street Children’s University Hospital today, the W82GO! childhood obesity treatment programme team reported that all of the children had a body mass index (BMI) greater than the 98 percentile on the Irish growth chart.
“All children who attend an outpatient clinic in Temple Street for any reason have their growth measured routinely which allows their BMI to be calculated and plotted on a child’s BMI centile chart,” said Dr Sinead Murphy, Consultant Paediatrician and Clinical Lead with the programme. “If the BMI is greater than the 91 percentile, the child is deemed overweight or if greater than the 98 percentile, the child is deemed obese and referred to the W82GO! service for review. We also consider referrals through GPs and other healthcare professionals in the community and the hospital.”
The team reported that when the children were referred, 40 per cent of them had risk factors for heart disease, 30 per cent had physical comorbidities including knee pain and breathlessness when walking. More than half, 60 per cent, reported psychological difficulties including poor self-esteem and depression and 11 per cent reported severe bullying.
On completion of the programme, the mean reduction in BMI SDS, a measure of obesity that takes child growth into account, was 0.16 after 12 months of treatment, comparing well with international studies . Approximately one in four primary school children in Ireland today are either overweight or obese. Obesity in childhood can cause respiratory, cardiovascular, muscuoloskeletal and metabolic problems, as well as leading to poor self-image and poor quality of life.
In addition, children who are obese are more likely to have illnesses like heart disease and type 2 diabetes in adulthood. Before starting the programme, the child is reviewed by a paediatrician, paediatric dietician, paediatric physiotherapist and paediatric psychologist. The child completes an exercise test to measure fitness and has baseline blood tests which assess their metabolic health and identifies how at risk they are for obesity-related conditions.
Following the initial appointment, families are then invited onto the programme. “The W82GO programme at Temple Street is here to help families who may feel that they have no-where to go. Parents often report that they just can’t find the help they need,” said Grace O’Malley, Senior Paediatric Physiotherapist at Temple Street. “We know the programme works in reducing obesity but we are committed to making it better. For example we need to look at how the programme affects the child’s fitness or cholesterol levels. As Temple Street is the only place in Ireland for children who are obese to receive this type of holistic care, we are keen to secure funding to meet the service demand.”