Background Childhood obesity is one of the most common and serious public health issues in the twenty-first century. Overweight and obese children are more likely to stay obese into adulthood and develop cardiovascular diseases at a younger age. Now, pediatricians have to manage these conditions that were once regarded as adult diseases.
Objectives The main aims are: 1. Identify knowledge gaps in medical, dietary, exercise and psychological aspects of childhood obesity; 2. Highlight the challenges in treating obese patients.
Methods This is a single-center, cross sectional quantitative survey of pediatricians and pediatric residents working in the largest tertiary children hospital in Singapore (KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital). Baseline demographic data as well as participants’ knowledge in medical, dietary, physical activity and psychological aspects of childhood obesity were collected using a 32-question survey. A group of medical and allied health professionals designed and reviewed the survey. The correct answers for BMI cut-offs for obesity and overweight, healthy balanced diet in proportion of plate, recommended sugar intake, physical activity for children were defined according to national and international guidelines. Junior doctors comprised of house officers, medical officers and junior residents. Senior doctors were made up of senior residents and pediatricians.
Results A total of 123 doctors were surveyed (46% were juniors). Both juniors and seniors tend to encounter overweight and obese patients on weekly basis. The most common challenge cited during patient consultations was patient motivation-related. Expectedly, the seniors perceived themselves to be more comfortable and knowledgeable compared to juniors. Other common challenges were lack of time and other medical conditions taking precedence over weight concerns. Physical activity recommendation was the weakest area, followed by dietary advice. There was no significant differences in medical, dietary, physical activity and psychological knowledge associated with obesity between junior and senior doctors.
Conclusions There were similar knowledge gaps in all domains of childhood obesity between junior and senior doctors. Physical activity recommendation is the weakest area. Patient motivation is the commonest challenge faced. Hence, future education programs should target all doctors and focus on motivational interviewing.
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