What questions should I be asking my child's physician?

Recommendations for speaking with a child's physician

A child's health care provider is the best health resource. The provider can help assess a child's Body Mass Index or BMI, a good way to determine a child's risk for overweight or obesity. The BMI formula helps determine whether a child's weight is in proportion to his or her height.

To make this determination, children are classified in a BMI percentile – an indication of how a child's measurements compare to others of the same age and gender. A child whose BMI is at the 50th percentile is close to the average of the population. A child above the 95th percentile is considered obese because 95 percent of the population weighs less than he or she does. A child below the 5th percentile is considered underweight because 95 percent of the population weighs more.

If a child falls into the at-risk percentile, the child's health care provider can help recommend changes in eating or activity habits that can benefit the whole family. A registered dietitian is uniquely qualified to help families recognize and change eating habits that could be contributing to excess weight gain in a child.

When speaking with a child's health care provider, consider the following:

  • Ask about your child's blood pressure, and whether it's normal
  • Ask about additional tests (cholesterol, triglycerides, fasting glucose) to identify health risks that may be associated with your child's weight
  • Create a plan for how your child's growth and weight will be monitored and checked in the coming year
  • Ask your health care provider to refer additional support services, such as working with a dietitian for nutrition counseling, consulting a physical therapist if there are physical activity limitations, or other weight management services available in your area.