Few Pediatricians Checking BMI Despite Obesity Epidemic, According to Cincinnati Children's Study

Physicians in Residency More Likely to Check BMI than Staff Pediatricians

Monday, May 07, 2007

CINCINNATI -- Despite an epidemic of obesity that has resulted in calls for pediatricians to plot a patient's body mass index (BMI) at least once a year, less than six percent of physicians appear to be doing it, according to a new Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center study.

"It's easy and inexpensive to screen for obesity, and we should be doing it at every well child visit to screen for overweight and obesity," says Jennifer Hillman, MD, a fellow in the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Cincinnati Children's and the study's lead author.

The study, which will be presented May 7 at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Toronto, is believed to be the first to be conducted solely during the period since the Centers for Disease Control added BMI growth curves to traditional growth charts in 2000.

The importance of plotting body mass is underscored by another recent Cincinnati Children's study showing that increased body mass is responsible for an increase in left ventricular mass -- known to be a major risk factor for heart disease.

Dr. Hillman and her colleagues studied 397 patient charts from a pediatric practice at an academic medical center (not Cincinnati Children's). The children were between the ages of 5 and 11 and their office visits occurred in 2004.

Only 5.5 percent of children had BMI documented in their charts, and only 4.3 percent had BMI actually plotted. In addition, residents were more likely than attending physicians to document and plot BMI.

"These results demonstrate the need for comprehensive and widespread educational interventions for all pediatric providers regarding the importance of measuring and documenting BMI in children prior to the development of overweight," says Dr. Hillman.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommended calculating and plotting BMI in 2003, and the Institute of Medicine came out with a similar recommendation in 2004.

Cincinnati Children's, one of the top five children's hospitals in the nation according to Child magazine, is a 475-bed institution devoted to bringing the world the joy of healthier kids. Cincinnati Children's is dedicated to providing care that is timely, efficient, effective, family-centered, equitable and safe. For its efforts to transform the way health care is provided, Cincinnati Children's received the 2006 American Hospital Association-McKesson Quest for Quality Prize". Cincinnati Children's ranks second nationally among all pediatric centers in research grants from the National Institutes of Health and is a teaching affiliate of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. The Cincinnati Children's vision is to be the leader in improving child health.

Contact Information

Amy Caruso, 513-636-5637, amy.caruso@cchmc.org