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Phoenix Children’s Hospital ramps up fight against childhood obesity

PHOENIX — Childhood obesity is one of Arizona’s fastest-growing problems, so Phoenix Children’s Hospital is throwing its weight behind fighting the epidemic.

“The fight needs to happen on multiple grounds,” Kristen Samaddar, a PCH pediatrician, said. “It’s going to have to happen with better awareness by doctors about the problem, and knowing what resources we can provide, and what works and what doesn’t work.”

Samaddar said she treats obese children daily who are struggling to participate in normal activities.

She recalled an appointment with a young, overweight boy.

“When I asked him, ‘Why do you want to be healthier? What would be good about it for you?’ he and his mom said he was having trouble getting out of a chair, and he wanted that to be easier,” Samaddar said.

Samaddar said the boy is one of many children in Arizona struggling with their weight. In fact, Arizona has the seventh-highest percentage of obese teens in the U.S.

“Close to 17 percent of children are obese, meaning that their body mass index is above the 96th percentile,” she said.

So, PCH has opened a new childhood obesity clinic.

“As doctors, we’re hoping to help families find what they can do to be healthier and little steps that all add up,” she said.

Encouraging kids to get outdoors, eat healthfully and lose weight are the main goals of the clinic, according to Samaddar. She said she hopes the hospital’s efforts help significantly lower Arizona’s childhood obesity rate over the next few years.