Screening and counseling associated with obesity diagnosis in a national survey of ambulatory pediatric visits

Stephen Cook, Michael Weitzman, Peggy Auinger, Sarah E. Barlow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective. To examine clinician-reported diagnosis of obesity and frequency of blood pressure assessment and diet and exercise counseling during ambulatory visits made by children and adolescents. Methods. The National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey and National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey 1997 to 2000 were combined for visits to clinicians of 2- to 18-year-olds. Well-child visits (WCVs) were examined for frequencies of obesity diagnosis, blood pressure screening, and diet and exercise counseling in relation to patient and clinician characteristics. Multivariate models examined the relationship of patient and visit characteristics with diet and exercise counseling. Results. Of the 32 930 ambulatory visits made by 2- to 18-year-olds in 1997-2000, obesity was diagnosed at 0.78% of all visits and 0.93% of WCVs. Blood pressure assessment was reported in 61.1% of WCVs with obesity diagnosis compared with 43.9% of WCVs without obesity diagnosis. WCVs with obesity diagnosis had higher diet counseling rates (88.4% vs 35.7%) and higher exercise counseling rates (69.2% vs 18.6%). Diet counseling was reported for 88.4% and exercise counseling was reported for 69.2% of visits with an obesity diagnosis compared with 35.7% and 18.6% during WCVs without a diagnosis of obesity. In multivariate analyses, factors associated with diet counseling at WCVs were diagnosis of obesity (odds ratio [OR]: 12.9; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 3.0-55.3), being seen by pediatricians (OR: 2.5; 95% CI: 1.6-3.9), 2- to 5-year-olds compared with 12- to 18-year-olds (OR: 0.7; 95% CI: 0.5-1.0), and self-pay compared with private insurance visits (OR: 0.6; 95% CI: 0.4-0.9). Associations with exercise counseling were similar to those for diet counseling, but exercise counseling occurred less frequently in visits by black youths compared with white youths (OR: 0.5; 95% CI: 0.3- 0.8). Conclusions. Clinicians may overlook obesity during WCVs. Programs to increase obesity diagnosis could improve diet and exercise counseling rates, but even with diagnosis of obesity, significant opportunities for screening and intervention are missed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)112-116
Number of pages5
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2005


  • Exercise
  • Nutrition
  • Obesity
  • Physician practice patterns
  • Survey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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