Empire BlueCross BlueShield Study Works with Local Practices to Find Answers on Managing Childhood Obesity
Results could be used by pediatricians nationwide
NEW YORK—April 16, 2012—Empire BlueCross BlueShield is conducting a year-long study to determine whether a structured childhood obesity program helps overweight children in the New York City metropolitan area lose weight and maintain the loss.
The study, Pediatric Weight and Activity Management (P-WAM!), conducted with Allied Pediatrics of New York and North Shore Long Island Jewish Health Care, is recruiting 240 children between 8 and 12 years old insured by Empire BlueCross BlueShield and treated by physician practices in Nassau, Suffolk Queens and Orange counties.
“The State Department of Health estimates that one in four New Yorkers under 18 years old – or 1.1 million young people – is obese,” said Dr. Scott Breidbart, Empire’s Chief Medical Officer. “Since overweight adolescents have an 80 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese adults, the long-term impacts to their quality of life and the costs of childhood obesity are immense. When we can confirm which programs work in our population, we’ll analyze our medical policies and benefits to ensure they support their success.”
Study researchers are looking for children who are at or above the 95th percentile for their body mass index. For example, an 11-year-old boy who is 65 inches tall would weigh 140 pounds at the 95th percentile. The study will be evaluated by outcomes research company, HealthCore, a health outcomes and clinical research company.
P-WAM! will focus on the “Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right,” a type of stoplight program which uses traffic light colors for different foods instead of calorie counting to teach the fundamentals of healthy eating and encourages children to make nutritious choices for themselves. The stoplight approach has been shown to work in academic medical centers, but no formal research has been conducted on its success in community-based physician practices.
While stoplight programs have been in existence for some time, the “Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right!” program was designed by New York pediatrician Dr. Joanna Dolgoff to combine both qualitative and quantitative approaches to eating so that no food is banned but children aren’t required to count calories.
“Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right! is simple for kids to follow because while they eat a certain number of calories, they get to pick what they want. They’re not counting calories but eating pre-determined portions of all different types of foods, which includes what they need for good nutrition,” said Dr. Dolgoff. “This is important, because in calorie-based plans that ask us to choose any 60-calorie snack, which could be an apple or a cookie, most of us would choose the cookie, but that’s not going to provide the energy we need to get to the next meal.”
While Dr. Dolgoff has tracked the program’s success in her own patients, the HealthCore study will include a control group and a study group to better compare how much of a difference the program makes over typical treatments for obesity.
Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York, a private group practice and part of North Shore Long Island Jewish, will participate as one of the ‘usual care’ sites, along with several of the Allied Pediatrics practices.
“Increasingly, pediatric practices work with nutrition counselors in helping kids who struggle with obesity,” said Dr. Hank Bernstein, site investigator and pediatrician at Cohen Children’s Medical Center. “We are still searching for creative and effective approaches that can be integrated into busy pediatric practices.”
“Past studies have stopped short in telling us what level of intensity is needed for these programs to succeed,” said Andrea DeVries, the HealthCore research director overseeing the study. “This study should help us answer how cost effective these programs are in the short term and in the medium term.”