Project ECHO: Moving Ahead In The Fight Against Childhood Obesity

Medical minds throughout Nebraska are coming together to address the problem of childhood obesity, thanks to a special effort by Children’s Hospital & Medical Center.

Children’s has become a hub for Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes), a project funded by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Project ECHO logo

Under the project, pediatric healthcare providers in rural or underserved communities statewide can consult with Children’s physicians about patients they’re treating for complications from childhood obesity.

A Promising Launch

Some 50 community healthcare sites, such as medical clinics, have participated since the project’s launch on Oct. 12, 2017.

Karla Lester, MD, Medical Director of the Children’s Center for The Child & Community at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha, said it is a very successful start.

“It really surprised me how robust the conversation was, and the learning that took place,” Dr. Lester said. Participants have included physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners from locations throughout the state.

The project allows physicians to submit actual cases for review to Children’s. Specialists provide a summary of the case, along with recommendations, in a live video conference.

With the first two video conferences behind them, the Project ECHO team at Children’s has received extensive positive feedback, as well as tips for improvement from participants, Dr. Lester said.

Direct Input From Specialists

More importantly, obesity experts from various disciplines at Children’s, such as social workers, pediatricians, fitness specialist, dietitians, and psychologists, have had a chance to share information with providers throughout the state.

Dr. Lester said the first two conferences covered a variety of topics including updated guidelines of different classes of obesity, how to document obesity in the primary care setting, staged approaches to treatment, and pre-diabetes and Type 2 diabetes.

Children’s specialists also have individual ideas about topics to address with community spokes. Leading a pioneer project, they are developing a curriculum that could potentially set the standard for future similar projects across the nation.

Making New Connections

Dr. Lester said ECHO is a great way to foster relationships with the community and to learn about barriers the community providers are facing.

Currently, the clinic is serving only Nebraska, but it has a potential to expand to a larger region, Dr. Lester said.

Visit the Children’s Omaha ECHO Project website for more information.

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