Why should we be concerned about obesity in children with physical disabilities?

  • A. M
  • J. S
  • J. L
  • et al.
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This overview will examine the state of research on obesity in children with physical disabilities and outline the program of research being undertaken by the authors. The prevalence of overweight and obesity in children with disabilities is 2-3 times that of their typically developing peers, threatening the increased life expectancy made possible by other medical advances. In addition to the well-documented risks of childhood obesity, increased weight for children with disabilities can have further consequences: exacerbating mobility impairments, making personal care activities more difficult, adding pressure on vulnerable skin, and intensifying social isolation and stigma. Existing research on the physiological, environmental, psychosocial and physical factors that contribute to this will be reviewed. Our team is engaged in a mixed-Methods program of research from which key findings will be presented. This includes: a qualitative exploration of the meaning of 'healthy living' to children with physical disabilities; a medical record review in a spina bifida clinic to gather anthropometric data and identify priority concerns; a scoping review of obesity prevention programs for children with disabilities; an environmental scan of weight assessment and management practices in spina bifida clinics across Canada; and an examination of the inclusion/exclusion criteria of studies included in the most recent Cochrane systematic review of obesity prevention interventions. Collectively, our findings are revealing unmet health promotion needs, weight management as low priority for parents and healthcare professionals, and systematic exclusion of children with disabilities in weight management initiatives and research. We will conclude with applications of the findings to clinical practice and future directions for research efforts.




A., M., J., S., J., L., P., C., & L., C. (2013). Why should we be concerned about obesity in children with physical disabilities? Canadian Journal of Diabetes. A. Mcpherson, Bloorview Research Institute, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, Toronto, ON, Canada: Elsevier. Retrieved from http://ovidsp.ovid.com/ovidweb.cgi?T=JS&PAGE=reference&D=emed13&NEWS=N&AN=72004264

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