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About Sickkids
About SickKids

February 5, 2010

New SickKids program helps teens STOMP out obesity

First program in Canada to offer weight-loss surgery to paediatric patients

TORONTO – Today, Stephanie Atwood, 18, is like most teens. She goes to school, holds down a part-time job, and enjoys aerobic dancing, going to the mall and spending time outdoors. But this wasn’t always the case.
                                                                                                                                                       
For most of Stephanie’s life, she has struggled with obesity. Following surgery to remove a craniopharyngioma (a type of brain tumour) at age seven, Stephanie began to feel hungry all the time. Doctors had to remove a part of the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that controls appetite. Stephanie gained weight to the point that she had difficulty moving and walking. She felt isolated from her teenage peers.

All of that changed after Stephanie had laparoscopic band surgery, a minimally invasive type of bariatric (weight-loss) surgery. Along with the surgery, better eating habits and regular exercise have enabled her to lose more than a third of her body weight.

“Obesity seemed like a battle I was going to lose – like I’d never stop gaining weight,” says Stephanie. “I feel so much better now. I went from being almost homebound to having a lot more energy. It feels like a different life altogether.”

Canadian teens like Stephanie who are dealing with severe obesity due to complex medical conditions now have a new resource to help them manage their weight and associated health issues.

In a first-of-its kind program offered at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), patients will have access to a team of health professionals, support groups and, for those who meet specific criteria, laparoscopic band surgery. SickKids Team Obesity Management Program, or STOMP, officially launches today.

STOMP offers an interdisciplinary team approach, with doctors, a dietitian, a psychologist, an exercise therapist and a key worker – in this case, a nurse practitioner – who oversees the patient’s care at every stage.

This model of care is what makes the program unique, explains Dr. Jill Hamilton, Director of STOMP, Endocrinologist and Associate Scientist at SickKids. “It’s about coordination and advocacy. A key worker oversees the child’s care in a comprehensive way, along with the team.”

Along with keeping a close watch on the patient’s complex medical conditions, the specialists also help patients develop healthy eating habits, create exercise routines and learn new coping techniques. There are support groups for the patients and parents are taught how to help their children succeed.  

Obesity rates are climbing, with 26 per cent of Canadian children currently classified as overweight or obese. While coping with severe obesity can be difficult for children and teens, the situation is further complicated when their obesity is caused by, or in addition to, another serious medical condition.

Obesity is associated with significant health problems, especially in children and young adults. These include heart disease, stroke, cancer and Type 2 diabetes. A recent publication in Diabetes Care, led by Hamilton, and funded by the Canadian Diabetes Association, has shown that close to 40 per cent of obese adolescents diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes already have additional complications, such as high blood pressure or evidence of early kidney damage.

The clinic is currently targeted toward patients aged 12 to 17 (an often-overlooked age group) with complex severe obesity, which involves having a body mass index (BMI) of greater than the 95th percentile for their age and gender, and at least one of: an obesity-related condition requiring specialty care, another co-existing significant chronic illness, or a BMI greater than the 99th percentile. It is estimated that approximately three per cent of Canadian children have complex severe obesity.

For those who are eligible, laparoscopic band surgery is an available option. SickKids is the first and only centre in Canada offering bariatric surgery to paediatric patients. The program also involves a research component, in which patient outcomes will be monitored following the surgery.

Hamilton expects the program to admit 50 patients this year, of which up to 15 may undergo the surgery, which is adjustable and reversible. Hamilton emphasizes that the surgery is just one element of the program – and is not a quick fix.

“It’s a tool, not a cure,” says Hamilton. “They still have to do the hard work. That’s why the interdisciplinary support and group curriculum are so important.”

STOMP is supported by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and SickKids Foundation. Patient outcomes will be evaluated through a Canadian Institutes of Health Research team grant (HISTORY – High Impact Strategies Towards Overweight Reduction in Youth).

The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) is recognized as one of the world’s foremost paediatric healthcare institutions and is Canada’s leading centre dedicated to advancing children’s health through the integration of patient care, research and education. Founded in 1875 and affiliated with the University of Toronto, SickKids is one of Canada’s most research-intensive hospitals and has generated discoveries that have helped children globally.  Its mission is to provide the best in complex and specialized family-centred care; pioneer scientific and clinical advancements; share expertise; foster an academic environment that nurtures healthcare professionals; and champion an accessible, comprehensive and sustainable child health system.  SickKids is proud of its vision of Healthier Children. A Better World.™ For more information, please visit www.sickkids.ca.

For more information, please contact:

Matet Nebres
The Hospital for Sick Children
Phone: 416-813-6380
email: matet.nebres@sickkids.ca

Suzanne Gold
The Hospital for Sick Children
Phone: 416-813-7654 ext. 2059
email: suzanne.gold@sickkids.ca