Managing Early Childhood Obesity in the Primary Care Setting: A Behavior Modification Approach

Samantha H. Drohan


Pediatr Nurs. 2002;28(6) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


The purpose of this article is to encourage primary care pediatric nurses to begin behavioral-based obesity treatment efforts as early as the preschool years. By examining the critical periods for obesity development and how the formation of food and activity behaviors interacts with those critical periods during the preschool years, the value of initiating early obesity treatment will be highlighted. Furthermore, the theory of behavior modification is presented and core principles are applied to early childhood weight management efforts.


The treatment of obesity is one of the most difficult challenges currently facing pediatric primary care providers (PCPs). Though the effort to combat obesity is a national priority, as clearly outlined in the Healthy People 2010 objectives, pediatric care providers are often discouraged by the scope and magnitude of this refractory health problem (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2002). Despite the provision of basic nutrition education at every health supervision visit, the childhood obesity epidemic continues to grow. Clearly, this short exchange of nutrition education is not sufficient to treat nor prevent such a complex and multifactorial condition. Nursing, as a discipline, places great emphasis on concepts such as nutrition, health promotion, and family systems interactions. Pediatric nurses working in a primary care setting, therefore, are uniquely suited to lead obesity treatment efforts.


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