Pediatric Weight Control Program at Packard Children’s Celebrates 10th Anniversary
Program Helps Kids From Around the World
For Release: September 05, 2006PALO ALTO, Calif -- Alberto Hidalgo is a quick learner. After arriving in America from El Salvador in 2002, the now-15-year-old struggled a bit to make friends in his newly adopted country. But he was a whiz at mimicking the unhealthy eating and exercise habits of his American peers. Within two years, Alberto had packed on 70 pounds. “In the beginning we didn’t know how to develop healthy habits,” said Alberto’s mother, Cecilia Hidalgo. “After a while, we realized that we needed some help.”
That’s why in early 2006, the Hidalgos turned to the Packard Pediatric Weight Control Program at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, one of the longest-running and most successful pediatric weight management programs in the country. Alberto weighed 224 pounds at sign-in, but thanks to the program, Alberto lost over 30 pounds, joining the 80 percent of participants who have significantly reduced their excess weight through the program.
As a centerpiece of the hospital’s Center for Healthy Weight, the Pediatric Weight Control Program promotes healthy eating and exercise habits for overweight children and their families and is celebrating its 10th anniversary in September. In the past decade, more than 350 kids between the ages of 8 and 15 have graduated from the family-based, behavioral program, and with unprecedented success. “The program was really great,” said Cecilia, who credits the six-month-long intervention with her own 12-pound weight loss. “It meant a lot that Alberto was part of a group. They paid attention to him, they took care of him, and they made him feel that he belonged.”
The example of Alberto and other newly arrived families underscores how toxic our national attitude toward food has become. Gaining weight has become the new normal for many immigrants and their children; current participants in the Packard Children’s program include families from Africa and Vietnam.
The program combines an easy-to-understand traffic light system to help kids and their families understand foods that should be consumed rarely (‘red light’ items like cheeseburgers), frequently but in moderation (‘yellow lights’ like grains) and regularly (‘green lights’ like vegetables). There’s also a point system for various types of exercise. A participant can choose any activity they like in order to reach their goal.
“Significant behavioral change is never a straight path,” said program director Cindy Zedeck. “Bumps and dips are normal, particularly after three or four months. Because our program is still ongoing at that point, we can offer experienced support in difficult times. Kids and their family members can also come in for 30-minute follow-up visits any time after completing the program.”
Zedeck and Thomas Robinson, MD, MPH, Director of the Center for Healthy Weight at Packard Children’s, launched the Pediatric Weight Control Program in 1996 as a way to prevent weight gain in high-risk children. They introduced the program into elementary schools the following year, and the number and variety of participants has since been expanding steadily. The program has been offered not just at Packard Children’s but also at sites in East Palo Alto and San Jose. The success of the program has been turning heads and has led to the establishment of Packard’s new Pediatric Weight Control Training Institute, which teaches health care providers from around the country how to implement a pediatric weight control program in their own communities.
Meanwhile, Alberto has another goal. In December, the Redwood City, CA teen is traveling back to El Salvador to visit old friends and relatives. “He wants everyone to say ‘Hey, Alberto, you look great!,’” said Cecilia. And they probably will, especially since Alberto has continued to lose even more weight. Recently he celebrated his 15th birthday by buying new clothes, all in smaller sizes. Said Cecilia, “Alberto’s really excited with what he’s learned in the program, and the whole family is thrilled with his success.”
About Lucile Packard Children's Hospital
Ranked annually as one of the best pediatric hospitals in the nation by U.S.News & World Report, Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford is a 264-bed hospital devoted to the care of children and expectant mothers. Providing pediatric and obstetric medical and surgical services and associated with the Stanford University School of Medicine, Packard Children's offers patients locally, regionally and nationally the full range of health care programs and services — from preventive and routine care to the diagnosis and treatment of serious illness and injury. For more information, visit www.lpch.org.
Media ContactRobert Dicks