Physicians Extend Their Reach Beyond the Office

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media , October 25, 2012

It looks like any other outdoor recreation program in America. Kids are playing in a Baltimore, MD park, running around and enjoying some fresh air. But this isn't the usual playground scenario. Hanging out with the kids are also physicians.

They're having fun, too—but with an eye toward preventing future chronic conditions or obesity in their charges, according to Bernadette Loftus, MD, associate executive director of Kaiser Permanente's Mid-Atlantic Medical Group.

Hundreds of doctors have devoted time within the past year to the Kaiser Permanente Docs in the Park program. It's an effort to help kids lose weight and get healthy, Loftus said during a HealthLeaders Media Rounds this month in Washington D.C. Kaiser Permanent wants to get the message across that physicians can influence healthy behavior outside the confines of their offices.

The physicians aren't just observers. They run around with the kids, too, and find "teachable moments" to talk about food and weight, Loftus says. "You can have some of those conversations in the park. It's a little more intimidating with an exam room. When you think about kids today, just getting them out to play is a challenge," Loftus says."

While fingers fly to text on cell phones or in video gaming, whole body movement suffers. And kids aren't the only slackers.

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