Optimal Wellness for Life (OWL) Program

The Optimal Wellness for Life Program at Boston Children's Hospital is a multidisciplinary clinic dedicated to treating children who are overweight or obese, and/or those with or at risk for type 2 diabetes. We believe that:

  • The obesity epidemic is a true epidemic, rooted in today’s cultural and societal environments.
  • With "adult" diabetes and atherosclerosis sharply rising in children and adolescents, obesity treatment and prevention is a smart investment—from both public health and economic perspectives.
  • To most effectively battle the obesity epidemic, we need both clinical research and changes to public policy and government regulations.
  • To help end this epidemic, the OWL program at Boston Children’s is committed to:
    • provide state-of-the-art care for overweight children
    • develop innovative treatments for pediatric obesity through clinical research
    • promote public awareness and prevention efforts

The battle against obesity

We believe that in the battle against obesity, each child has his own needs. Since obesity may be a product of many components, including genetics, diet, level of physical activity, and psychological factors, the OWL program combines the expertise of a range of specialists, including:

  • pediatric endocrinologists
  • certified nutritionists and dieticians
  • specialists in behavioral medicine
  • physical activity specialists
  • social workers

We primarily help our patients using a combination of nutritional counseling and behavioral modification.

Nutritional counseling

Dietary modification is a primary treatment used in the OWL program. We frequently prescribe a "low glycemic index" diet to help control excessive appetite, but depending on your child’s needs, other dietary approaches are also available.

During the initial evaluation, your family meets privately with a dietitian to discuss how to ease the transition to a more healthful way of eating for your child and your family.

Behavior modification

Behavior modification uses a combination of short-term individual and family psychotherapy sessions to increase motivation to change diet and physical activity level. These treatments may also help children cope with the emotional stresses associated with being overweight and boost confidence.

Here at the OWL program, we believe strongly in the value of a strong support structure, and we can put you in contact with other families and access other community resources. Together, we can help your child switch to a more healthful lifestyle.

Epidemic at-a-glance

hamburgerThe food industry spends $1.6 billion marketing its products to children and adolescents. Of that about 3% is for healthy categories such as bottled water, fruits and vegetables.

Sources: FTC Report Sheds New Light on Food Marketing to Children and Adolescents - July 29, 2008Rudd Center Report: Trends in Television and Food Advertising

Currently, 35% of American children are overweight or obese. Childhood obesity causes type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, fatty liver, high blood pressure and other serious complications. 

Source: "The Impact of Food Marketing on Children," Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity.

On an average visit to a fast-food restaurant, teens ordered 800-1,100 calories in a single meal -- half of their recommended daily caloric intake. What's more, nearly one-third of those calories came from saturated fat or sugar. 

Source: Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity study on fast food restaurants

Consumption of fast food meals, in particular, is associated with higher BMIs and less healthy diets in youth and adults.

Source: Bowman SA, Gortmaker SL, Ebbeling CB, Pereira MA & Ludwig DS (2004). Effects of fast food consumption on energy intake an diet quality among children in a national household survey. Pediatrics, 113, 112-18.

Television statsstockphoto

Children ages 8 to 18 spend the following amount of time in front of the screen, daily:

  • Approximately 7.5 hours using entertainment media
  • Approximately 4.5 hours watching TV
  • Approximately 1.5 hours on the computer
  • Over an hour playing video games

These data lie in stark contrast to the 12 minutes per day that adolescents engage in vigorous physical activity.

Source: Henry J. Kaiser Foundation, "Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year Olds," January 2010.

Increases in television viewing are associated with increased calorie intake among youth. This association is mediated by increasing consumption of calorie-dense, low-nutrient foods frequently advertised on television.

Source: “When Children Eat What They Watch: Impact of Television Viewing on Dietary Intake in Youth

In fact, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has reported that per capita soft-drink consumption has increased by almost 500% over the past 50 years.

Source: Putnam JJ, Allshouse JE. Food consumption, prices, and expenditures, 1970–97. Food and Consumers Economics Division, Economic Research Service, US Department of Agriculture; Washington, DC: 1999.

The Endocrinology Division is pleased to announce that our call center for scheduling your appointments will now be open from 7:00 am-8:00 pm, Monday-Friday. Please call today to make an appointment with one of our specialists at 617-355-5159.