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Healthcare Providers

Doctor examining child

Providers have an exciting opportunity to make a difference in children’s lives at routine check-ups and other appointments. Sometimes a child’s weight can be a difficult subject to discuss with families. It is imperative to have that conversation early and often, however, in order to prevent child obesity and educate families on ways to maintain healthy weight.

Understanding BMI Percentiles
Children and adolescents with a BMI between the 85th and 95th percentiles are considered overweight and those with a BMI greater than the 95th percentile are considered obese.

  • Share information with parents about their child’s weight status.
  • Discuss the long term consequences of obesity, such as pre-diabetes.
  • Decipher the difference between growth spurts and abnormal weight gain.
  • Be a leader in your community to get the word out about adolescent obesity prevention!

Why BMI?

Body Mass Index (BMI) is an important provider-patient communication tool that is a calculation of body weight relative to height. For most children and teens, BMI is a reliable indicator of body fat. BMI is age and sex-specific and is often referred to as BMI-for-age. After BMI is calculated for children and teens, the BMI is plotted on the BMI-for-age growth charts (for girls or boys) to obtain a percentile ranking.

Tips for explaining BMI:

  • Many parents do not have an accurate perception of their child’s weight, or what is considered overweight or obese. BMI-for-age percentile charts are a visual tool to show parents their child’s growth and development.
  • When discussing a child’s weight, avoid blaming parents. Share with them that they are an important part of their solution to improve their child’s health.
  • There is so much nutritional and dietary information available that it can be overwhelming for parents. Share tools like 5-2-1-0 to suggest specific steps that parents can use to improve their child’s eating habits and physical activity.
  • Encourage parents to be role models for their children and make healthy lifestyle changes as a family, rather than imposing a certain health plan only on the child.
  • Go over with parents examples of appropriate behavioral goals to set for their children and for the family (e.g., eliminating intake of sugared drinks, or increasing daily physical activity).
  • Emphasize to parents the importance of focusing on healthy behaviors in their child, rather than just how much their child weighs.

Create an Interactive Waiting Room

If your facilities permit, try to have a play room instead of a waiting room so that energetic children can play before their appointments. Exercise equipment such as treadmills, stationary bikes, yoga mats and stability balls may be perfect icebreakers, getting everyone in the office involved!


Use the 5-2-1-0 rule to share messages about healthy nutrition and physical activity. Here are some recommendations and talking points to share the message with families:

5+ servings of fruits and veggies each day

Fruits and veggies provide important vitamins and minerals necessary to support growth and development and for optimal immune function. Fruit and vegetable consumption can help prevent weight gain and aid in maintaining a healthy weight.
Achieve it! Make meals colorful: Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables.

2 hours or less of screen time each day

Watching too much television is associated with an increased risk of overweight and obesity, lower reading scores, and attention problems. Children under 2 should not have any screen time and those older than 2 no more than 2 hours each day.
Achieve it! Screen time includes any time in front of a television, computer, video game or handheld device. Trade screen time for family physical activity time.

1 hour or more of exercise each day

Regular physical activity is essential for keeping a healthy weight and preventing disease later in life. Children and adolescents raised in families with active lifestyles are more likely to stay active as adults.
Achieve it! During commercial breaks or at stopping points during homework, do activities such as jumping jacks, sit-ups or running in place.

0 sugar sweetened beverages each day

Every time a child drinks an extra serving of a sugar-sweetened beverage, the likelihood of the child developing obesity increases by 60%. Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption among children is associated with overweight and obesity, lowering milk consumption and dental cavities. Water and low-fat milk are healthier options.
Achieve it! Try to drink 6-8 cups of water each day!