Weight Management (HEROES)

Is your child struggling with weight management? The Healthy Eating with Resources, Options, and Everyday Strategies (HEROES) Program at Children’s Hospital and Medical Center can help. HEROES is the only medically managed program in the area with a multi-specialty team of experts ready to assist your family in making healthier lifestyle choices.

Today’s kids are more likely to struggle with weight than ever before. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the number of American kids suffering from overweight or obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s. About 1 in 5 school-aged children is affected.

There are a number of factors that contribute to unhealthy weight gain. These include:

  • Eating behaviors: Eating a diet that includes a lot of fatty and sugary foods makes it easy to take in excess calories.
  • Lack of physical activity: Many of today’s kids spend more time on screens and less time moving their bodies.
  • Genetics: Though genetic causes of obesity are rare, in some cases, children may need additional testing to see if their DNA may be contributing to excess weight gain.
  • Environmental factors: Lack of access to healthy, nutritious food during childhood ups the risk of lifelong issues with weight, as does a lack of opportunities to be outside and active.
  • Psychological factors: Just like some adults, kids might use food for comfort when they’re anxious, sad, or depressed.

Excess weight is more than a cosmetic issue. An unhealthy body mass can result in a variety of other health & medical problems. Potential illnesses caused by overweight and obesity include asthma, type 2 diabetes, early heart disease, sleep apnea, and bone and joint issues. Depression and lower self-esteem can also be a concern. If left unaddressed, all of these can result in chronic health and/or emotional problems throughout adult life.

Your child’s needs are unique and our team of experts understands that. We’ll work with you and with your family to determine how to best help your child to have the healthiest future possible.

How Can Excess Body Weight Affect Your Child’s Health?

Excess body weight can affect health in many different ways, including:

  • Cardiovascular: Excess weight and poor nutrition can result in high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure, which are risk factors for early heart disease.
  • Endocrine (Hormones): Children with excess weight and with a family history of diabetes are at increased risk of developing prediabetes or type II diabetes.   Females who are the age of puberty and carrying excess weight, should be screened for polycystic ovary syndrome.
  • Gastrointestinal:  Poor nutrition and increased intake of unhealthy fats contribute to conditions like gallstones and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
  • Neurological: Children with excess weight can experience a condition called Pseudotumor cerebri, which can cause headaches, dizziness, and vision disturbances.
  • Musculoskeletal:  Children with excess weight may experience hip pain, knee pain, or limping — which are signs of a condition called slipped capital femoral epiphysis. Over time, a heavier-than-normal body can put stress on the bones and joints, leading to an increased risk for joint injury and fractures.
  • Psychological/Emotional:  Children who are overweight or obese may struggle with poor self-esteem, depression, or anxiety.  Some children struggle with the development of eating disorders, such as binge eating or bulimia.
  • Pulmonary: Extra weight means a child’s lungs have to work harder to do their job. Children may suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, or periods of ineffective breathing while sleeping, asthma and/or exercise intolerance.

What Sets HEROES Apart?

HEROES is not a diet program. Our focus is medical weight management. In some cases, that may mean helping your child lose weight. In other cases, it may mean stabilizing your child’s weight gain to let their height catch up. Either way, our team of experts will help your family to plan and maintain healthy lifestyle changes that you can stick with for the long term.

We do more than just help your child achieve a healthier body weight. Even patients who are unable to successfully meet weight loss or weight maintenance goals will benefit from receiving diagnosis and treatment for weight-related illnesses (or comorbidities).

“You make me feel comfortable and not self-conscious about my weight and the way I look.”

—HEROES participant

How HEROES Works

The HEROES program utilizes a multi-specialty, family-centered approach that recognizes excess weight as a chronic medical illness. We provide a range of support services and care to children of all ages, including:

  • Nutrition status evaluation and planning: Our registered dietitians analyze your child’s current diet, make suggestions about how to improve it, and help you plan for success.
  • Behavioral modification counseling: If your child is used to reaching for a snack when bored or anxious, they might need help creating new habits. Our behavioral health service team will help your child – and your family – adopt healthier habits that will become automatic over time.
  • Fitness assessment and activity guidance: Our exercise specialists will help determine your child’s fitness level, suggest activities that they may enjoy, and encourage them to move more.
  • Help with overcoming your child’s barriers to success: Every child’s home environment is different. What may be getting in the way of them making healthier choices? Our social workers will help determine what these obstacles may be and come up with strategies to overcome them.
  • Identification and treatment of weight-related health issues: We’ll assess and evaluate your child’s overall health and work with our physicians, nurses, and other medical providers to provide customized care.

Our Specialists

Cristina Fernandez, M.D.

Pediatrics
Weight Management

Karla K. Lester, M.D.

Weight Management

Peg M. Miller Evans, PhD

Behavioral Health
Weight Management

What To Do Next

For Patients

Make An Appointment

Make An Appointment

Ask your child’s pediatrician for a referral to the HEROES program. Once we receive the referral, we will contact you with more information. You may also call us with questions about the program or requirements for participation.

Omaha HEROES Clinic 402-955-4080
Lincoln HEROES Clinic 402-955-8770

For Referring Providers

In order to be referred to the HEROES clinic, patients must meet one of the following requirements:

  • BMI > 85th percentile with co-morbidities
  • BMI > 95th percentile alone

Download our physician referral form.

Please fax your completed form to 402-955-4078. Once our staff has made sufficient attempts to contact the family, we will report patient status to the referring provider.

For referral criteria or to discuss options for management of high-risk patients, you can reach the Omaha HEROES Clinic at 402-955-4080, or the Lincoln HEROES Clinic at 402-955-8770.

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