athenahealth data shows kid obesity flat

EHR data analysis counters CDC findings

athenahealth, which provides cloud-based services for electronic health records, practice management and care coordination, today released national childhood obesity rate findings based on athenahealth's proprietary medical record data from more than 1 million patient visits between 2010-2013.

Based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention definition of childhood obesity and on the athenahealth data, there are no signs of a national decline in childhood obesity within the athenahealth network.

[See also: Obesity app takes first place in D.C. competition.]

Following the CDC's recent report of decreases in obesity among low-income preschoolers across 19 states, athenahealth analyzed electronic health record data from its cloud-based network for children who received care from about 6,000 physicians across the country over a three-year period ending on June 30, 2013. In contrast to the CDC's findings, the obesity rates for children seen by these physicians show no meaningful change over time.

"Our cloud-based platform, which captures data from almost 44,000 healthcare providers around the country, puts us in a unique position to be able to look across a national health network to monitor health trends and physician activity on a real-time basis," said Josh Gray, vice president of athenaResearch at athenahealth. "We're simply not seeing declines in childhood obesity as the CDC recently reported. From what we see, obesity rates for a large, national sample of children have been flat for three years, through June 2013. We believe this is valuable information for the clinical community, and for everyone with an interest in keeping kids healthy."

[See also: Personalized Prevention, Part III: Applying the Model to Obesity.]

In support of BOKS, an initiative of Reebok and the Reebok Foundation to expand free before-school physical activity programs for kids, athenahealth is hopeful this data will help rally the public around the ongoing need to prioritize exercise and nutrition in schools, athenahealth executives said in a press statement. Just last week, BOKS announced an incentive for public and private elementary schools, as part of which anyone across the country can apply for a $1,000 Activation Grant to bring BOKS to their school (suggested uses found within the application on BOKSKIDS.org and applications will be accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis through December 2013).

"We have a long haul ahead of us when it comes to childhood obesity and the need for physical activity as well as nutritional education for kids," says Kathleen Tullie, co-founder and executive director of the BOKS program, in a news release. "It's more than overcoming a national statistic; it's about helping children become healthy so they can thrive. Research demonstrates that physically active kids do better academically and behaviorally, and while BOKS is free, the Activation Grant provides that extra push to bring BOKS to more schools."