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Open Access Research article

Training in childhood obesity management in the United States: a survey of pediatric, internal medicine-pediatrics and family medicine residency program directors

Margaret S Wolff1, Erinn T Rhodes23* and David S Ludwig23

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Emergency Medicine, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA, USA

2 Division of Endocrinology, Children's Hospital Boston, Boston, MA, USA

3 Department of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

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BMC Medical Education 2010, 10:18  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-10-18

Published: 17 February 2010



Information about the availability and effectiveness of childhood obesity training during residency is limited.


We surveyed residency program directors from pediatric, internal medicine-pediatrics (IM-Peds), and family medicine residency programs between September 2007 and January 2008 about childhood obesity training offered in their programs.


The response rate was 42.2% (299/709) and ranged by specialty from 40.1% to 45.4%. Overall, 52.5% of respondents felt that childhood obesity training in residency was extremely important, and the majority of programs offered training in aspects of childhood obesity management including prevention (N = 240, 80.3%), diagnosis (N = 282, 94.3%), diagnosis of complications (N = 249, 83.3%), and treatment (N = 242, 80.9%). However, only 18.1% (N = 54) of programs had a formal childhood obesity curriculum with variability across specialties. Specifically, 35.5% of IM-Peds programs had a formal curriculum compared to only 22.6% of pediatric and 13.9% of family medicine programs (p < 0.01). Didactic instruction was the most commonly used training method but was rated as only somewhat effective by 67.9% of respondents using this method. The most frequently cited significant barrier to implementing childhood obesity training was competing curricular demands (58.5%).


While most residents receive training in aspects of childhood obesity management, deficits may exist in training quality with a minority of programs offering a formal childhood obesity curriculum. Given the high prevalence of childhood obesity, a greater emphasis should be placed on development and use of effective training strategies suitable for all specialties training physicians to care for children.