Doctors expand telehealth program to help teens lose weight

Health coaches provide online appointments

ORLANDO, Fla. – Doctors are getting creative in their quest to help children lose weight by expanding telemedicine.

The most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control showed obesity affected 12.7 million children in the United States, putting them at serious risk for poor health.

Studies have shown frequent weight management visits with physicians, dieticians, and mental health counselors can teach teenagers healthy eating and exercise habits.

"Our desire would be to see them at least every other week, but it's really challenging for families to, to get that time to come to a clinic," said Dr. Lloyd Werk, pediatrics division chief at Nemours, "using telemedicine health coaching we're able to extend our coaching into their homes."

Telemedicine is a growing practice that allows doctors to connect and diagnose patients remotely, using a computer, cellphone, laptop or telephone.

One patient taking advantage of the telemedicine program at Nemours is 15-year-old Gabriella Brown.

"They feel like family to me," Brown said, while describing her doctors and health coaches at Nemours.

Her mother, Natashia Brown, told News 6 morning anchor Kirstin O'Connor her daughter was diagnosed a couple of years ago as prediabetic, and sought help from the team at Nemours. After meeting in person with a physician and other medical professionals, Gabriella continued her nutrition and exercise care online, using the Nemours CareConnect app.

"She could turn her camera and face it towards the door, and we would be able to see it so then I would go up and do it, too," Brown said as she described learning plank exercises.

Sitting side-by-side with her daughter during the 5- to 15-minute biweekly appointments, Natashia said her daughter learned a lot from the coaches about meal choices, one of her biggest hurdles.

"Take the time out to make homemade healthy meals, as opposed to just grabbing something convenient," said Natashia.

"I remember when I was younger just by walking to the bus stop I would be so tired," said Gabriella.

Both mother and daughter lost weight using the app, together nearly 130 pounds.

"I was able to run my mile for school and I was able to keep up with the track kids," said Gabriella, "so, I'm proud of myself."

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