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Oklahoma City child obesity clinic nears first-year anniversary

A pediatric obesity clinic in Oklahoma City has served 55 families over the past year. They operate only on Thursdays and have a three-month waiting list.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Modified: July 13, 2013 at 12:52 am •  Published: July 14, 2013

There were times when Dr. Ashley Weedn worried they'd have to close the clinic.

The Oklahoma City pediatrician and a team of doctors have spent the past year taking on one of Oklahoma's hardest challenges: childhood obesity.

In a state battling this epidemic, the medical billing infrastructure is not designed to support the clinic's multidisciplinary approach, which helps children in the most desperate situations.

The clinic operates only on Thursday afternoons and has a three-month waiting list. But longer clinic hours wouldn't solve the demand problem.

“We'd be full,” said Weedn, the clinic's medical co-director. “This clinic cannot serve the needs of our whole state.”

The Pediatric Exercising and Eating Responsibly Clinic, based in The Children's Hospital in Oklahoma City, serves children ages 2 to 18 who are obese or severely obese.

One in four school-age children in Oklahoma are obese, according to data from Schools for Healthy Lifestyles surveys of Oklahoma schools. Meanwhile, one in seven children in preschool are obese.

Since the clinic opened in August, the staff has treated 55 families. Typically, they can see six to eight families in the half day that they're open.

While at the clinic, families see Weedn, a pediatrician, along with a pediatric psychologist, a physical therapist and a dietitian. Studies have shown this model, known as “multidisciplinary,” is effective, but it's the key reason the clinic has trouble getting care reimbursed.

Finding support

Because of how medical billing codes work, it's hard to find a model that pays for any multidisciplinary clinic, regardless of specialty, said Dr. Stephen Gillaspy, the clinic's co-director.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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