Zooming Towards a Telehealth Solution for Children with Obesity

Another day, another shocking statistic. When dramatic data is commonplace, we can be forgiven for letting them slip past our radar. One particularly alarming stat you may have missed last month came from The Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity: only 2.7% of Canadian children and teens are getting the recommended hour of physical activity each day. Alarming as it might be, it’s probably not much of a surprise to parents currently at home with young ones.

As physical activity goes down, screen time goes up. Any parent can tell you that the “less than two hours” previously recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics has gone out the window. Trying to fight it is a losing battle. After all, it’s how they learn, how they stay connected with friends, and how they’re spending a summer unlike any other in their lives.

Lockdowns have been especially tough for children struggling with obesity. Fitness regimens and support systems critical to progress were totally disrupted by the virus. But it’s especially important that this disruption doesn’t push back hard-won progress. And screen time might be the key to this.

Virtual classes, fitness apps, even video games can help obese children introduce physical activity into their quarantine regimen. But it takes support from the people around them. Physicians agree that active goal setting and involvement and education from family members can be the secret ingredient that makes digital fitness work. When families play and learn together, it’s far more likely to stick.

But beyond the digital tools that can help children stay active, it’s also critical for those with obesity and their families to stay connected with the doctors and other care providers on their journey to better health. It’s not simply about getting those hours of physical activity: mental health support, clear goals, monitoring progress – tackling obesity effectively requires a coordinated effort. This is where Telehealth options become critical.

Meeting with physical and mental health professionals regularly can be key to ensuring that COVID-19 doesn’t derail your child’s care plan. Set up a consistent schedule and stick to it. Check-ins can be an opportunity for kids to share questions, anxieties, and successes with someone outside of their family and friends. It creates a system of accountability that shifts some of the weight off parents’ already overburdened shoulders. And it’s a way to help return to a feeling of normalcy: a reminder that the priorities they had before life changed are still important.

The lockdown has been the perfect testing ground for Telehealth technologies. Doctors are learning how to use video-calling platforms like Zoom more effectively, and we’re complementing them with remote collaboration tools that let patients track progress, share data, and keep their support systems in the loop.

I encourage you to reach out to your family doctor to learn about the Telehealth options offered, and how they can support your child’s obesity treatment. Let’s keep the progress moving.