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Care for the growing population of obese children

August 11, 2017

According to the 2011 National Survey of Children’s Health, at least ten percent of children in 49 out of the 50 states are obese. And this number has only risen in the years since, putting millions of people at risk of developing adverse health conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes, fatty liver disease, acid reflux, joint pain and more. The disease is particularly prevalent in Washington D.C., in which more than 50% of all adults and 20% of all children and adolescents are overweight or obese – some of the highest numbers across the country. 

Researchers, clinicians and surgeons at Children’s National are constantly on the quest to provide higher quality health and surgical care solutions for this increasing population. In the search to learn more about the disease, Dr. Freishtat, M.D., M.P.H., the chief of emergency medicine at Children’s National, is currently researching the potential links between excess belly fat and diseases associated with obesity. 

Dr. Freishtat’s findings currently seem to support the theory that exosomes, which are cellular vesicles found in most eukaryotic fluids, sourced from the belly fat of patients with obesity are much less active and effective in supporting metabolic processes such as insulin signaling. 

Conducting this research, Dr. Freishtat says, will hopefully lead to a rapid acceleration in diagnosis for patients who are at risk of developing obesity-related conditions and providing care before it’s too late.

“If we can detect it earlier, before symptoms arise, intervention is going to have a more significant impact on improving and extending patients’ lives,” says Freishtat. 

Meanwhile, physicians at the Obesity Institute and IDEAL Clinic have been working steadily to expand access and meet an increasing patient demand for weight-management services.

“We have the same patient-centered philosophy as the rest of Children’s National which we like to bring to bear to children with severe obesity, which is the number one pediatric problem in this country. And we think we can make a different in our patients’ lives immediately and in the future,” said Dr. Nazrat Mirza, the Medical Director of the IDEAL Clinic. With patients as far away as Georgia and Alabama, Mirza notes that the demand for clinic services has increased. 

The Bariatric Surgery Program, however, continues to surge ahead in its seventh year as a critical resource for many young patients with obesity searching for long-term solutions. Especially when diet and exercise regimens no longer have a significant impact on weight-loss, Dr. Mirza notes, bariatric surgery has statistically proven effective in helping patients sustain weight loss and resolve complications. 

The program, which saw huge growth and its record high number of patients this year, also achieved national accreditation last January from the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program (MBSAQIP ®) – becoming one of the first children’s hospitals and the only youth-focused bariatric center in the area to earn such an accreditation.
The MBSAQIP accreditation process entails a rigorous and diverse set of criteria involving staffing and training processes, pre-operative and post-operative protocols for care, and facility infrastructure. 

“Gaining this accreditation underscores the core strengths of our program, and the right for adolescents to get this surgery,” says Evan Nadler, M.D., Surgeon and Co-Director, Children’s National Obesity Program, “I have been passionately advocating for this right, and I am proud that this ambition has been realized by Children’s National.”