AAFP Board Chair Lori Heim, M.D., of Vass, N.C., joined first lady Michelle Obama and U.S. Surgeon General and family physician Regina Benjamin, M.D., M.B.A., for a White House conference call to mark the one-year anniversary of the launch of the first lady's Let's Move! campaign against childhood obesity.
First lady Michelle Obama, shown here at a Let's Move! press event last March, heaped praise on family physicians and other clinicians for their efforts to combat childhood obesity during a White House conference call.
"Obesity is an issue family physicians deal with in our offices, and we know the toll it takes on health," Heim told AAFP News Now in an interview before the Feb. 8 call. "Measuring body mass index, or BMI, is another vital sign, just like blood pressure, that helps us address an issue.
"A lot of people don't see themselves or their children as obese or overweight. Until we recognize a problem, we don't address it."
Heim expanded on that message during the call. "Do we ignore the effects of untreated hypertension until it's our receptionist who recognizes a patient's Class 4 heart disease (because) they can barely walk through the door to the reception area?" she asked. "No, we screen for hypertension and heart disease.
"The same is true with tracking weight gain and not waiting until the child or the adult is morbidly obese."
Last year, the Academy signed on as a partner in the campaign, which -- among other things -- encourages health care professionals to make a commitment to measure BMI and counsel patients and their families about optimal nutrition and physical activity. Physicians who sign the Let's Move! health professionals pledge will receive a personalized Let's Move! certificate to post in their practices.
During the call, Heim highlighted a number of initiatives the AAFP has developed to address childhood obesity, including
- the Americans In Motion-Healthy Interventions, or AIM-HI, initiative;
- childhood obesity prevention books and other resources available free to members; and
- the school-based educational program Ready, Set, FIT!
Heim also pledged the AAFP's support for the first lady's latest challenge: to extend the fight against childhood obesity into patients' communities.
"We will take that challenge ... to help physicians integrate their efforts into community efforts, because we also believe that we will not change just with what happens within our exam rooms, but we're going to have to reach out further into the community," said Heim.
For her part, Obama emphasized the key role primary care physicians play in maintaining children's health.
"You're the ones who are out there every single day working to make sure that our kids are healthier," she said during the call. "You're the ones leading the charge in our communities. You're the ones who parents turn to when they've got questions about their kids. I know that was true in my case.
"That's why we wanted to bring all of you together today because you all have a vital role to play in putting our kids on the road to a healthier future."