Pediatric Endocrinologist: ‘Solutions to childhood obesity are community specific’

Dr. Sonal Chandrate discusses educating families about childhood obesity
Published: Jun. 30, 2022 at 10:06 AM CDT
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STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAW) - One in five children in the U.S. is obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In an article published by UW-Madison’s School of Medicine and Public Health in 2018, research shows obesity rates in Wisconsin vary dramatically by age and zip code, generally showing rural areas have higher obesity rates compared to urban and suburban areas.

Data from multiple sources show nearly 15% of children in Wisconsin are dealing with obesity. Pediatric endocrinologist at Aspirus Health in Stevens Point, Dr. Sonal Chandratre, said not only has this been an issue before the pandemic, but now the issue has compounded because of it.

Dr. Chandratre said it’s important to have these discussions from her perspective because childhood obesity can lead to long-term health conditions at an earlier age, like Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, early puberty and PCOS in females.

“What I’ve seen and learned over all these years, is this existing need, there’s this gap in terms of education and awareness, and I really think we need to have those community-focused interventions at the local level. And also another thing, I think we need to have those meaningful conversations outside of the hospital setting,” Dr. Chandratre explained.

She said those conversations need to continue at home because of the consistent stigma there is surrounding the topic.

“Because this problem is community-specific, the solutions are also community-specific, and as members of the community, it is our responsibility and accountability to address this gap. And if you look at the community health intervention plan, you would see that healthy weight has been one of the quality metrics and we haven’t really seen a positive change in that yet.”

Over the years in her practice, she said she has found a human-centered approach to the topic with patients. She said having a positive approach to a healthy lifestyle is what she has found to be most successful when making progress with patients.

“What I do is I spend a lot of time in understanding what their lifestyle looks like and then kind of pivoting my ideas in supporting their journey toward a healthy lifestyle. So there’s no body shaming, we never even talk about the word obesity, we just talk positively about healthy weight and again we steer away from anything negative associated with that, so we make sure we ask the questions, we make sure we ask what are the challenges and why somebody would not be able to achieve that healthy weight, and according to that we sort of formulating initial goals... having the child as the star of the show and having a patient-centered approach is really the key.”

Dr. Chandratre said when there’s a shared responsibility and accountability within the family, progress shows to be more impactful and successful.

Her approach in the clinic with patients regarding the topic is coming to life as a resource for children within the community. Dr. Chandratre wrote the children’s book ‘a complete kid’s guide to a healthy lifestyle.’

“This is literally hot off the press, just 24 hours old... Just about any child, irrespective of their body weight, this book will help them find the information and resources to live a healthy lifestyle. And it’s not just about diet and nutrition and exercise, it’s way more than that and it’s so fun and kid-friendly... I just can’t wait for everyone to read the book,” she explained joyfully.

She said the book sets itself apart from other children’s books because it was created with the community at the top of mind, from the author to the content, to the illustrator, to even the printing company of the book, it has all been created ‘for the community, by the community.’

“I have written it based on experiences of the community, the families and patients that I see here. And It is illustrated by Serene Soman, a 5th grader from the Stevens Point School District. It was printed by Spectra Print, which again is a local printer [in Stevens Point] and it’s already mustering great support from different foundations, especially Aspirus Stevens Point Hospital Foundation... And they are supporting 1,000 free books for children who are coming over to the Aspirus Stevens Point pediatric clinic.”

She said her goal is to really get the book in every single child’s hand to have as a resource and lifestyle guide.

“... Because I think there are many resources out there for adults, but not really for children, in a kid-friendly way. And this book is exactly what that means, and it’s comprehensive and it has all those fun elements with beautiful illustrations, and again this will help them be set up for success with optimum health for the future.”

Aspirus Health along with Dr. Chandratre will be at the Stevens Point Riverfront Rendezvous on Friday, July 1 from 5-8 p.m. and on Saturday, July 2 from 12-8 p.m. They are encouraging all families seeing a pediatrician at Asprius Stevens Point Pediatric Clinic to go and get a free copy of the book.

The book will also be available on Amazon.

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