Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital

Childhood Obesity

Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital offers several different programs available for addressing childhood obesity

Children of all shapes and sizes can be healthy but understanding whether your child may be at risk for weight-related health issues is important in promoting a healthy lifestyle throughout your child’s growth and development. Within the United States, one in three children ages 2 to 19 is considered overweight and up to 1 in 5 children meet criteria for obesity. Children as young as 2 years old identified to be obese have been shown to have greater risk of long-term health risks including hypertension, diabetes, depression and other conditions making it critically important to know your child’s weight status early on in life. Though childhood obesity is increasingly common, it remains a highly stigmatized condition where oversimplified approaches like “eat less and exercise more” place undue blame on individuals and make it unnecessarily hard for children and families to discuss their lifestyle and health concerns. Starting the conversations around prioritizing your child’s overall health and finding the right care team is a critical first step.

What is Childhood Obesity?

Pediatric obesity is a medical condition where a child’s weight is higher than expected for their age and height. We measure obesity using body mass index (BMI), which is an estimate of what part of a person’s weight can be related to body fat. Visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s online BMI calculator to estimate your child’s BMI and whether it is considered overweight or obese.

What Causes Childhood Obesity? 

An increasing body of evidence indicates that obesity is much more complicated than “eat less and exercise more.” Obesity is a complex condition influenced by a child’s environment and their own personal biology, as well as their habits and their genetic background. In addition, childhood obesity is heavily influenced by the places where children live, work and play, —sometimes referred to as the “social determinants of health.” Understanding the role of your child’s home, school and neighborhood environment as well as considering access to healthy food options is fundamental in understanding what influences your child’s diet and nutrition. 

Recognizing the complex causes of childhood obesity opens the door to treatments that move past “eat less and exercise more” strategies and also address the variety of other influences on your child’s health. Just as with any chronic medical condition, pediatric obesity requires that appropriate diagnosis be made, that the severity of the condition be considered and that patients and families be provided treatment options.

Why Choose Johns Hopkins All Children’s 

At Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida, we are pioneering the way in which childhood obesity is identified, prevented and treated. We offer a variety of programs based on your child’s health needs and reflecting state-of-the art approaches in the fields of pediatric obesity medicine and nutrition. 

Johns Hopkins All Children’s offers U.S. News & World Report ranked pediatric specialists that provide the highest quality care. Among this diverse group of specialists, we have one of few pediatricians certified in obesity-medicine nationally and regionally, Raquel Hernandez, M.D., M.P.H. Her expertise in combination with our expert team of specialists, including nutrition, endocrinology, sleep medicine and cardiology, provide the highly coordinated and comprehensive care needed to tailor clinical treatment to you and your child. Our teams not only provide state-of-the-art clinical care, but they additionally lead research efforts focused on the discovery of obesity-focused pathways and treatments — through innovative research and publication of peer-reviewed studies, generation of clinical protocols and education for providers and trainees on best practices in pediatric obesity. 

Our programs include: 

The Healthy Weight Initiative 

The Healthy Weight Initiative at Johns Hopkins All Children’s is a multi-tiered and evidence-based preventative approach to provide the highest quality treatment of pediatric obesity and associated health conditions. The goal of the Healthy Weight Initiative is to enhance and grow patient-centered treatment options for at-risk children and families, empower children and families with educational resources, innovate methods by which to connect and access treatment options and address disparities for high-risk populations regionally and nationally.

Nutrition Division

Our Nutrition experts include a broad team of registered dietitians with expertise in evidence-based approaches for medical nutritional therapy to children referred by physicians with weight-related health issues. We take an evidence-based medical approach to treating chronic conditions using an individualized nutrition plan. 

Fit4Allkids Health and Wellness Programs

We offer Health and Wellness programs for children and families who are interested in learning about healthier lifestyles. Our programs do not require a referral from a medical provider to participate and are best suited for children without weight-related health risks or preexisting health conditions. 

The goal of our health and wellness programs includes providing high-quality education, interactive activities and helpful resources for families and students. We focus on healthy lifestyle choices involving nutrition, culinary education and physical activity for all members of the family. Program options include virtual sessions and in-person.