McLeod Physicians Partner with Schools to Decrease Childhood Obesity

Dr. Benjamin Elder, far right, and Bentley Oates, 8th Grade Assistant Principal at Sneed Middle School, discuss with students the benefits of exercise and healthy eating as part of the Docs Adopt© School Health Initiative.

McLeod Children’s Hospital has taken an active role in decreasing childhood obesity in our community through a partnership with Florence School District One and the Docs Adopt© School Health Initiative, led by Dr. Benjamin Elder, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics with McLeod Family Medicine Center, and Hart Smith, Vice President of Women’s and Children’s Services.

The initiative, established in 2007, is part of a grant from the Boeing Center for Children’s Wellness to the McLeod Foundation which focuses on helping schools establish and implement healthy practices to decrease childhood obesity. McLeod Physicians participating in the initiative "adopt" a school and work with a committee to set short-term and long-term goals based on the School Wellness Checklist©. The physicians then offer hands-on guidance and education in areas such as nutrition, physical activity, and stress management to achieve those goals.

"Childhood obesity continues to be an alarming issue, as obesity, weight reduction techniques, and risk factors for co-morbidities are often left untouched during well child visits," says Dr. Elder.

Dr. Carl Chelen, Medical Director of the McLeod Children’s Hospital Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), offers a first-hand view of how obesity impacts pediatric patients. "A large portion of our pediatric population at McLeod suffers from diabetes, asthma, juvenile hypertension, and sickle cell disease," explains Dr. Chelen. "In each of these instances, obesity either complicates or contributes to the condition, making treatment options more challenging."