Childhood obesity is a growing epidemic, tripling over the past 30 years. The Healthy Kids Program at MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Torrance Outpatient Specialty Center is committed to changing that trend. The Healthy Kids Program offers a multi-disciplinary approach to healthy weight management and preventative care for children and teens at risk of developing serious health problems, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and fatty liver disease.
The Healthy Kids Program is an extension of MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach and combines the expertise of pediatric cardiologist, Saar Danon, M.D.; gastroenterologist, Stephanie Abrams, M.D., M.S.; and registered dietician, Parva Rezai, RD to meet the needs of children with obesity. Dr. Danon addresses high cholesterol, hypertension, and other cardiovascular problems, while Dr. Abrams addresses prediabetes, fatty liver disease, and other gastroenterology needs and Parva Rezai, RD customizes a diet for patients based on their needs to help them achieve a healthy diet.
“At the Healthy Kids Program, we want to work with the entire family to build healthy habits in the household to support the child,” says Saar Danon, M.D., medical director, Pediatric Cardiology and Congenital Cardiac Catheterization, Miller Children’s & Women’s. “We take a comprehensive approach to engage the family in the process. The chance of success is greatly improved when the entire family works together.”
The Healthy Kids Program team works with the families to understand, identify, and eliminate the root cause of a child’s obesity, which may stem from physiologic or emotional causes. Patients who are referred to the Healthy Kids Program have two 1-hour visits to ensure the comprehensive care and treatment plan. These visits have helped the team understand their patients and their families on a deeper level and personalize their treatments based on their specific situation.
“It’s important that we teach these children and families to make slow, steady changes for them to have long term success,” explains, Dr. Abrams pediatric gastroenterologist, Miller Children's & Women's. “We want to reward healthy habits, not weight loss, because the weight loss will be a byproduct of those healthy habits. We understand that it is hard for children and families, but we hope by affecting one child, we affect the whole family.”
In the future, the Healthy Kids Program hopes to expand to other Miller Children’s & Women’s centers in Long Beach and Fountain Valley. They also hope to increase program capacity and add additional specialties, including endocrinology, behavioral health, and exercise/physical therapy.
“It’s very easy for us to enjoy our work and find it rewarding, especially since we’re constantly learning from each other while getting to know our patients,” says Parva Rezai, registered dietitian, Miller Children’s & Women’s. “We hope to show families that our approach in treating obesity is to consider the whole picture of our patients including social, emotional, and clinical aspects. Our goal is to reframe the way food and activity play into their lifestyles to combat this epidemic.”