One of MY TOUGHEST Cases: Childhood ObesityTulane Medical Center | Tulane Pediatric Downtown Clinic | 1415 Tulane Ave., 5th Floor | New Orleans | 988-6253
Five years in practice
Bachelor of Science in Biology – Baylor University, Waco, Texas
M.D. – University of Texas Southwestern, Dallas, Texas
Native of Lafayette
Twenty years ago, Dr. Mary Alice Younger’s job didn’t exist anywhere, and she says she wishes that were still the case.
According to the CDC, (Center for Disease Control), obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents over the past 30 years.
In New Orleans those numbers are even worse, reaching 5 percent higher than the national average as of 2011.
As the head of the diabetes and metabolic clinic at Tulane Medical Center, Younger spends about two-thirds of her time addressing childhood obesity and one-third on diabetes.
“It’s really gotten bad here,” she says. “I’d say about half of our public school kids here in New Orleans are overweight or obese.”
As such, Younger says she spends a lot of time addressing previously solely adult health problems, like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, in children of younger and younger ages.
“I’ve had a 7-year-old in my clinic with type two diabetes and that’s just scary,” she says. “We know that for a 40- or 50-year-old that can mean a shortened life span, but we don’t have a clue how that’s going to translate to a 10- or 11-year-old.”
In addition to seeing patients at the clinic, Younger is also part of Tulane’s Community Pediatrics program through which she works half day clinics four days out of each week out in the community working with obese children and their families who are uninsured or underinsured.
“The No. 1 culprit for sure is sugary drinks,” she says. “Some of my patients drink over 1,000 calories a day.”
Younger says she spends a lot of her time educating families on better diet choices and proper portion sizes for various ages.
“The goal with each visit is typically to get the patient and their family to agree to two-to-four changes they can make,” she says. “Any more than that and it becomes too overwhelming and they won’t do anything.”
But sometimes families are resistant to any changes at all, and those are the cases Younger says can be her toughest.
“Many of these kids come in depressed,” she says. They may be already experiencing health problems, they’re being bullied at school, and they don’t like the way they look and feel, but the family is not willing to make changes. Even worse is when I see parents blaming their 9- or 10-year-old for how they are eating. They’re just eating what’s available to them in their house.”
If things don’t change, Younger says she fears for the future.
“I really think that we are raising the first generation of children that will grow up to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents since the bubonic plague.”