Too few doctors may be telling parents their kids are overweight


Parents can sometimes be clueless about the fact that their kids are too heavy, but doctors may not be steering them in the right direction. A study finds that less than a fourth of parents recollect their healthcare providers telling them their children were overweight.

From 1999 to 2008, 4,985 parents of children age 2 to 15 who had a body mass index in the 85th percentile or higher were asked if they had ever been told by a physician or health professional that their child was overweight.

Overall, 22.4% of parents reported they’d been told. Percentages tended to be higher among minorities, older children, poorer children and those who had public insurance and logged more healthcare visits.


Although no differences were seen between boys and girls, more parents reported being told of their child’s weight later in the study. In 1999 it was reported by 19.4% of parents, by 23.4% in 2004 and by 29.1% from 2007 to 2008.

Among parents of very obese kids, 58% said they got a heads up from a doctor about their child’s weight.

“Parents might be more motivated to follow healthy eating and activity advice if they knew their children were overweight, but very few parents of overweight children say they have ever heard that from their doctor,” said lead author Dr. Eliana Perrin, associate professor in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, in a news release.

Although the study authors said they’re not sure why the numbers have risen, they said it may have to do with the fact that the definition of what constitutes an overweight or obese child has become more clear in recent years.

“As health care providers, it’s our job to screen for overweight and obesity and communicate those screening results in sensitive ways, and we are clearly either not doing it or not doing it in a way that families can hear or remember,” Perrin added. “While we’ve done better in recent years, clearly there’s more work to be done.”

The study was released online Monday in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.