A child must be referred to the clinic through his or her primary care physician. Families have told clinic staff that getting that referral is not always easy.
“We've had families call for an appointment without a primary care provider referral, and we inform them we need a PCP referral, and they've gone to their PCP, who does not engage in that conversation with them,” Weedn said.
Families have been told their child doesn't have an issue, that their child will “grow out of it,” Weedn said. About 65 percent of 2- through 5-year-olds don't outgrow their weight and will become obese adults, Weedn said.
To help doctors better understand childhood obesity, the American Academy of Pediatrics Oklahoma chapter has created a tool kit that doctors can download from the organization's website.
For the physicians willing to refer patients, there are also barriers. Telling a parent that a child should go to a clinic for obesity-related health issues is not easy.
“It's still such a sensitive topic that we find frequently that primary care providers are reluctant to engage in that conversation,” Weedn said.
The clinic is open only on Thursdays because that's what it has the resources to pay for. It costs about $300,000 to run the clinic for a year. Chesapeake donated the money that helped the pediatric facility open this year.
Most obesity clinics in the U.S. rely on some type of external funding from hospitals, grants or community foundations.
This is because things like the day-to-day functioning of the clinic often aren't covered by insurance, said Stephen Gillaspy, an OU Children's Physicians psychologist who works at the clinic.
“(Weekly) following-up by our program coordinator is an example of what makes the clinic unique but is an example of a service that's not reimbursable,” Gillaspy said.
Gillaspy said there isn't a clear sustainability model that's been found to work for multidisciplinary clinics like the one in Oklahoma City.
“I think our first year is still a testing ground to see how feasible it is,” Gillaspy said. “Everyone would love for us to be able to expand the clinic and offer that service to more people, but the jury's still out because the models across the country, outside of just the insurance reimbursement, they get some kind of additional support through the different funding streams.”