Phoenix Children's and Arizona Blues team up to curb obesity

In a rare direct payer-provider partnership, Phoenix Children's Hospital and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona are launching a medical home program this month to curb and prevent childhood obesity. The idea for a jointly operated childhood obesity clinic started about a year ago, said Dr. Kristen Samaddar, a pediatrician at Phoenix Children's and one of the leaders of the year-long program. 

The youth obesity rate in Arizona was almost 20% in 2011, according to the National Survey of Children's Health. TheCenters for Disease Control and Prevention estimates as many as 17% of U.S. children are obese, with many costly chronic illnesses such as heart disease and Type 2 diabetes linked to the condition. “Most pediatricians find themselves talking about this a lot,” Samaddar said.

The obesity clinic, located at Phoenix Children's, will monitor and treat patients ages 2 to 18. Primary-care physicians will lead the program using a patient-centered medical home model, tailoring preventive care for each child through coaching and consistent outreach. Blue Cross gave Phoenix Children's a $20,000 grant to help develop educational materials and get the program off the ground, Samaddar said. 

The heart of the clinic's work will be the 5-2-1-0 initiative—a nationwide campaign that encourages children to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, limit daily TV and electronics screen time to two hours or less, exercise for at least one hour every day and drink zero sugary beverages. Motivating families and children to engage in those healthy behaviors is the ultimate goal—and hurdle—for the program, Samaddar said.

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