Childhood obesity is a national epidemic and Pennsylvania is no exception. Minority and socio-economically disadvantaged individuals suffer disproportionately.
Given the documented relationship between obesity and chronic disease, it is not surprising that these groups, many of whom are covered by Pennsylvania Medicaid, face a disparate burden of disease and have the highest prevalence of obesity. Pennsylvania ranks 15th among all states in percentage of Medicaid recipients who are obese, but ranks fourth in annual obesity medical costs.
Led by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare (DPW), the state government and concerned groups have designed an action plan that addresses three key sectors in the health care delivery system:
In developing this action plan, DPW staff completed extensive reviews of the literature, examined available resources, and reviewed other statewide efforts. DPW worked with other state departments (Insurance, Health and Education) and managed care organizations to develop interventions that fall within the scope of the activities of a health care plan.
The action plan includes:
- Consumer education and resource identification
The goal is to empower consumers with needed knowledge and tools about childhood obesity prevention and early treatment, helping them choose healthy and productive lifestyles. This will reduce their burden of disease and ensure that consumers have ready access to information and resources.
- Provider education and tool identification
It is important to increase the number of practitioners who regularly screen, identify, treat, and refer (when appropriate) overweight and at-risk children. We do this by ensuring that practitioners and their staffs are given the information and resources they need through the development of a provider-training program and resource toolkit.
- Policy review including treatment resource identification and reimbursementThis set of interventions has three goals:
- Make specialty care available for overweight and at-risk children with complications.
- Clearly identify appropriately trained specialists to whom practitioners can refer children.
- Ensure that health plan networks have the resources to provide medically necessary obesity related services for children.