Fort Lauderdale, Florida -- Unhealthy eating habits, boredom, depression and less physical activity than normal, combined with extra screen time, have led to a dangerous weight gain in children during the pandemic. Over the last eight months, Children's Diagnostic & Treatment Center (CDTC), which offers a variety of services that care for disabled and chronically ill children and adolescents throughout Broward County, has seen a surge in the number of children and adolescents who are diagnosed as overweight or obese.
To stem that trend, Helena Gaviria, M.D., a board-certified pediatrician at CDTC’s Primary Care Center, has launched a pilot program called Bee Healthy, a hybrid of educational and counseling services, combined with healthy eating tips and a series of easy to follow exercise recommendations.
“The Bee Healthy program is our response to an overwhelming jump in the number of overweight children we are treating,” said Gaviria, who is also certified as a health coach by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. “Since the pandemic began, many kids have put on weight and have been unable to shed pounds, whether it’s from excessive fast food consumption or lack of physical activity. We want to help motivate the kids and their families to live a healthier and happier lifestyle.”
Gaviria is currently treating a group of 10 children and teens between 5 and 13 years of age who are overweight or obese. According to the CDC, overweight is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) at or above the 85th percentile and below the 95th percentile for children and teens of the same age and sex. Obesity is classified for those with a BMI at or above the 95th percentile.
Through Bee Healthy, they receive complimentary tools and resources such as grocery bags filled with fresh and nutritious food, scales for at-home weigh-ins and measuring cups with sectioned plates for portion-control. Easy to follow educational books offer creative and healthy eating options and inspiring advice geared toward transforming poor habits into long-term health.
CDTC is currently raising funds to expand the program through grants and fundraising events, such as the recent CDTC-sponsored gentle yoga session.
“Unfortunately, during the pandemic, many parents have delayed scheduling annual physical exams that allow doctors to monitor weight gain and track body mass index,” said Gaviria. “Following a patient’s initial visit with us, they can continue to be monitored through telehealth technology if they choose. The key is to keep the kids on track to a healthy lifestyle.”
Gaviria, who treats children suffering from a variety complex medical needs, notes that obesity can also compound those challenges, which may lead to chronic health issues such as diabetes, insulin resistance, hypertension, high cholesterol and a worsening of asthma. Obesity is also a comorbidity factor that affects one’s ability, whether an adolescent or adult, to fight COVID-19.
For more information on how to participate in the Bee Healthy program please visit ChildrensDiagnostic.org or call 954-728-8080.
Children’s Diagnostic & Treatment Center (CDTC) is a not-for-profit that nearly 11,000 clients with special healthcare needs in Broward County annually. As a facility of Broward Health, CDTC’s mission is to promote the optimal health and well-being of children with special healthcare needs by providing comprehensive prevention, intervention, and treatment services. CDTC is a recognized National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) offering a unique system of care for infants, children, youth and women with chronic illnesses, disabilities, and developmental delays. For more information, visit ChildrensDiagnostic.org.