Childhood obesity is emerging as a global epidemic that threatens the health and well-being of children in the United States. Early identification of children at risk for obesity is a key public health priority area. The purpose of this study was to examine the screening practices, intervention procedures, barriers to the provision of services, and attitudes of Texas pediatric dentists for those patients who may be at risk for childhood obesity. Participants of this study consisted of a census sample of pediatric dentists currently licensed in Texas. A paper survey was sent to 548 pediatric dentists actively licensed in Texas. One hundred and nineteen pediatric dentists returned the survey for a response rate of 21.7% (n=119). All survey data were coded and entered into an Excel spreadsheet. The ordinal responses were analyzed using descriptive statistics. Findings demonstrated that Texas pediatric dentists agree they have a role in helping children achieve a healthy weight due to the implications of weight to general health. Respondents indicated positive interest towards providing healthy weight interventions. Approximately 36% (n=43) of Texas pediatric dentists agreed they are willing to employ a screening tool to identify those children at-risk for obesity, 19% (n=23) are open to inclusion of behavior-modification programs and 35% (n=42) are willing to offer dietary counseling in their practices. Lack of parental motivation was identified by 54% (n=64) as the greatest barrier to the provision of obesity related services. Additionally, 47% (n=56) felt lack of parental acceptance to advice and 31% (n=49) felt fear of offending the parent were significant deterrents. Texas pediatric dentists identified notable incentives needed to confidently address at-risk populations for childhood obesity. Fifty-nine percent (n=70) identified the need for more CE courses on the topic of obesity and 57% (n=68) felt there needed to be established clinical guidelines to integrate during patient care. Fifty-three percent of practitioners (n=63) felt there was a need for more evidence supporting the link between obesity and dental disease. Sixty-three percent (n=74) report they would be more likely to include obesity related interventions in their practice if there was increased availability of patient education resources. Their opinions are independent of their age, area of practice and years of practice. Future studies need to determine if the pediatric dentists' perceived barriers to the provision of obesity related services are in fact offensive and not wanted by parents. Future studies could investigate which interventions are most successful and acceptable to children and their parents. Interprofessional collaboration is needed among educators, pediatric health care providers, oral health care providers, parents and community leaders to advocate for societal changes that may lead to a reduction in the prevalence of childhood obesity.
- Mallonee, Lisa Professor