‘They Want To Be Here’: Allina Program Helping Teens Battle Obesity

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When it comes to maintaining a healthy weight, many of us are struggling…and so are our kids.

In the U.S., more than one-third of adults are considered obese – 36.5 percent to be exact. About 17 percent of children are obese.

A year-and-a-half ago, specialists at Allina Health created a strategic approach to help families.

Dr. Bradley Linden is the head of Allina Health’s Kids, Teens and Young Adults Weight Management Program.

“We have some ideas on what causes the disease, but it is more complex than simply how much you eat and how much activity you engage in,” Linden said.

He sees patients at Abbott Northwestern Hospital.

“We are treating teenagers — 13, 14 years of age — who have developed type 2 diabetes, who are on blood pressure medication for hypertension, they’ve got obstructed sleep apnea,” he said. “They are sick, sick with the disease of obesity.”

He worries about more than just the health risks they face, but also the emotional implications of being overweight.

“Oftentimes obesity disease will impair their ability to meet those normal developmental milestones,” he said. “That’s normal socialization, participation in certain activities.”.

The weight management program allows children and teenagers to meet with a team of specialists, like dietitians, physical therapists and psychologists, twice a week.

“Once we get people in the door, they realize the desire we have to help them…and they want to here,” he said.

Linden says lack of sufficient sleep is contributing to the problem.

“They’ve got a lot going on in school,” he said. “They are doing a lot of studying and may not be able to get all the sleep they need,” adding that fatigue is a factor in weight gain.

This weight management program is open to young people under the age of 25. It’s often covered by insurance.

Doctors at Allina Health also say there are surgeries now that can help alter the body’s hormones to prevent obesity.

Here’s how Allina Health described the program in a press release:

The Allina Health Kids, Teens and Young Adults Weight Management Program is specifically geared for people under the age of 25. The goal is to intervene early and avoid severe health issues and diseases related to obesity.

“High blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea are complications that many young people now face. We believe people of all ages deserve a comprehensive approach to their weight concerns,” said Bradley Linden, M.D., medical director.

The Allina Health Kids, Teens and Young Adults Weight Management Program includes nutrition, activity, and behavior change. Treatment might also include medication and bariatric surgery depending on the severity of disease.

Patients begin with evaluations by a physician, registered dietitian, physical therapist, and psychologist who specialize in the care of young people and obesity. Pediatric specialists in sleep medicine, genetics, gynecology, endocrinology and cardiology are also available to support patients.

After six to twelve months of intensive, medically-supervised weight management efforts, the medical team, patient and family may decide that a surgical option is the appropriate treatment.

Randi Westad, a 17-year-old from Faribault, Minn., was the program’s first adolescent to have weight loss surgery. Westad had lost more than 30 pounds working with the medical team. That kind of success — a weight loss of five to ten percent — improves obesity-related conditions.

But Westad determined surgery was her best option for losing significant weight. The medical team recognized her strong motivation and the support she received from her parents and siblings. And, they had confidence she would follow recommendations following surgery.

“I wanted to improve my health and live a long life, and I was worried about other medical issues that could happen just because of my weight,” she said.

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