Pennington Biomedical Launches Child-Focused Obesity Reduction Initiative

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Obesity Toolkit equips primary care physicians for early weight interventions
Released: Thursday, January 29, 2015

Baton Rouge, LA - LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center today announced the launch of its new Childhood Obesity Treatment Toolkit, which provides integrative strategies for reducing and treating obesity in children across Louisiana. Through a partnership with Baptist Community Ministries, Pennington Biomedical is joining with primary care physicians throughout Louisiana to implement weight reduction initiatives that have demonstrated success in primary care settings.

The toolkit features comprehensive information for pediatricians on evaluating childhood obesity, including the assessments that have proven most effective, and approaches for treating overweight and obese children and adolescents. It also provides additional support to physicians through four recommended stages of treatment.

"This revolutionary toolkit has the power to transform our approach to battling the childhood obesity epidemic," said William T. Cefalu, M.D., executive director for Pennington Biomedical. "Doctors often have limited time with patients, and this toolkit provides a simple starting point to begin and continue the conversation about developing a healthy lifestyle earlier on so that our state's children are less likely to suffer from obesity, diabetes, hypertension and other dangerous chronic conditions."

The toolkit stresses the importance of family involvement in health, including encouraging parents to model healthy eating and a physically active lifestyle. It also focuses on self-monitoring and goal setting with nutrition and exercise at the forefront, while integrating technology such as smartphone apps, pedometers, text messaging, video conferencing and other cutting-edge tools to motivate patients. Additionally, the toolkit offers education to primary care providers through motivational interviewing techniques to encourage positive and non-judgmental conversations between doctors and their patients.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. In 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight and obese. Long-term, children who are overweight and obese are more likely to be at risk for health problems during their lifetime such as diabetes, heart disease, several types of cancer.

"Studies have shown that establishing healthy habits and achieving a healthy weight early on in life can help children to avoid some of these debilitating conditions later on," said Dr. Amanda Staiano, assistant professor of research for pediatric obesity and health behavior at Pennington Biomedical. "We believe that this partnership with primary care physicians is crucial to identifying children who are at risk for being overweight or obese and helping to prevent or treat those conditions before they cause further health problems."

In 2014 Pennington Biomedical opened the Translational Research Clinic for Children (TReCC) dedicated to the study of pediatric obesity and diabetes. Since the TReCC's unveiling in early 2014, Pennington Biomedical researchers have been exploring innovative methods - such as "exergaming" (or using video games for exercise) - for encouraging children towards a healthy lifestyle.

Researchers are currently surveying Louisiana primary care providers and healthcare personnel to better understand common current practices to prevent and treat childhood obesity. Healthcare workers who are interested in participating can complete a brief survey and find more information about the Childhood Obesity Toolkit at

Pennington Biomedical is also enrolling children in several research studies, including the DRIVE study - a training program that teaches parents about child health and nutrition. To find more information about participating in a study, go to


The Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the triggers of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. It is a campus of Louisiana State University and conducts basic, clinical and population research. The research enterprise at Pennington Biomedical includes approximately 80 faculty and more than 25 post-doctoral fellows who comprise a network of 44 laboratories supported by lab technicians, nurses, dietitians, and support personnel, and 13 highly specialized core service facilities. Pennington Biomedical's more than 500 employees perform research activities in state-of-the-art facilities on the 222-acre campus located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.