BMI training course launched by Anthem Blue Cross to tackle childhood obesity

In a continued effort to keep screening for childhood obesity at the forefront, Anthem Blue Cross' State Sponsored Business launched an innovative on-line Body Mass Index (BMI) training course featuring a virtual BMI wheel and web-based interactive practice sessions to help provide hands-on experience.

The launch of the online BMI training program builds on Anthem's efforts which revolutionized the way physicians incorporate BMI in their practice. Armed with BMI wheels and added education and training on the subject, physicians across the state have been encouraged to initiate a dialogue with parents about their child's nutrition and physical activity.

"Many physicians have told us that they cannot manage what they cannot diagnose," said Harvinder Sareen PhD, director of clinical programs for Anthem Blue Cross State Sponsored Business. "Our goal with the BMI training is to close the gap between the relatively ambiguous nature of obesity and the lack of training in obesity care."

Since launching its childhood obesity efforts in 2005, Anthem has conducted 49 in-person BMI workshops throughout the state and nearly 2,400 primary care physicians, clinical staff, school teachers, and others have benefitted from the training. In data collected through assessments and interviews following the training sessions, 90 percent of participants found the training to be useful and close to 90 percent reported they calculated the BMI of children in their practices.

Anthem used additional measures to track and standardize the use of BMI to screen for overweight and obesity in primary care practice. Anthem's leading efforts to track BMI measurement in physician offices by adding BMI to the Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS) data collection process led to an invitation by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) to participate in a pilot to assess new HEDIS quality measures for childhood obesity. In a landmark announcement, the NCQA announced new 2009 HEDIS measures which include BMI and nutrition and physical activity counseling for children and adolescents.

"The fact that Anthem's efforts have contributed to shaping policy on the use of BMI as a standard HEDIS measure helps validate our efforts and demonstrates that we are leading the way to providing our members with access to quality care to help them lead healthier lives," said Sareen. "We know that physicians play a pivotal role in the fight against obesity and we continue to focus on our goal to provide them with innovative solutions to address obesity related prevention and management," she added.

In addition to the new online BMI training program, over 2,200 primary care physicians in Anthem's Medi-Cal network received an updated version of its original 2005 Childhood Obesity Toolkit introduced when the program was launched. Among the items included in the updated toolkit is a pediatric and family-medicine authored Continuing Medical Education (CME) Bulletin on childhood obesity developed in partnership with the national American Academy of Family Practice Physicians (AAFP), educational materials for families and, Anthem's Kids in Charge of Kalories program information.

Although recent events endorsing BMI measurement in helping to combat childhood obesity is positive, Anthem continues to find new ways to ensure the topic of childhood obesity remains relevant and a standard part of primary care practice, especially in light of the sobering new national and state studies indicating that obesity continues to be a major health concern for adults and children alike.

"To address childhood obesity, the assessment of a child's weight must become a central component of every doctor's routine," said Central Valley pediatrician Aftab Naz, MD. "BMI is a reliable, cost-effective method of monitoring weight and the incorporation of BMI by pediatricians into their practices is the first step in addressing the disturbing trend of childhood obesity. I think Anthem's effort to bring these resources to primary care offices and providing doctors with tools they can use to identify and manage obesity can become a mainstay of primary care," he added.

Comments

  1. Hugh Nelson Hugh Nelson Australia says:

    There have been studies showing that a Waist / Height ratio of 52% correlates closely with the 95th Percentile of BMI adjusted for Age.
    To keep it simple, many dieticians use 50% as the cut-off point.
    It is so simple and quick to measure, and easy for doctors and parents to understand.  Central obesity is the key health issue.

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