Weight loss and dieting are difficult topics for people of any age, and it can be especially complicated when you bring kids in the discussion.
Obesity continues to be the most common chronic disease affecting youth in the United States, and one-third of American kids are overweight or obese. Research also shows the COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on the diet and physical activity among overweight children.
In response to these alarming statistics, the Children’s Hospital of Georgia’s Paws4Health Clinic is helping kids in the Augusta area overcome obesity-related illnesses by offering personalized weight management plans. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, health care professionals in the clinic stay in constant contact with their pediatric patients with virtual check-ins to offer medical advice and encouragement.
“Childhood obesity is a crisis we can no longer ignore, and it is important for kids to have a place where they do not feel awkward about talking about their weight and getting healthy,” said LaShawn Oates, founder of the Paws4Health Clinic and a nurse practitioner specializing in pediatric gastroenterology at the Children’s Hospital of Georgia. “I understand the anxiety many of these kids go through because I also struggled with weight as a child. Now, as a parent and a health care professional, I am doing my best to ensure children make healthy choices as well as feel comfortable talking to a medical provider and not feeling judged.”
The clinic has already had several success stories, like 16-year-old Caroline Solis who has lost 15 pounds since she started coming to the clinic in February. Solis’ pediatrician referred her to the clinic to receive specialized weight loss care for prediabetes, and she says her experience has given her a new excitement about her future.
“Before coming to the clinic, I felt embarrassed and I did not like how I was feeling,” said Caroline. “Although I started going to the clinic right before the pandemic hit, I have continued cutting back on eating junk food and I walk about three miles a day. I am so excited about becoming healthier, and I know I could not have done this without the support of my family, friends and the clinic.”
One of Caroline’s greatest supporters has been her mother, Jessica, who says she is happy to see her daughter enjoying life again as an energetic teenager.
“I am so proud of my daughter, because I remember when she was depressed, full of anxiety and even suicidal due to her weight,” said Jessica. “The clinic gave my daughter her life back, and now she is cooking more instead of eating out and she is listening to the doctor. Caroline is such a beautiful young woman and her determination to get healthy is so inspiring.”
Oates has been working with Caroline since the start of her weight loss journey, and says she has seen such a turnaround in Caroline’s focus on getting healthy.
“We develop the plans, but it is up to the patient to do the work,” said Oates. “Caroline has done so well over these few months, and she is putting in the work that will set her on a path of healthy living for the rest of her life. I am so proud of her.”
Caroline hopes to lose 45 pounds by this time next year, and shays se is more determined than ever to reach that goal.
“Losing weight is not easy, but it is worth it,” said Caroline. “If there is a teen or a kid wanting to begin changing their life like I did, I want them to make sure they have a good support system and think about coming to the Paws4Health clinic.”
Learn more about AU Health’s Paws4Health Clinic by calling 706-721-5437.