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COPE hosts March 16 Conference for Health Care Professionals, “Weight Management: Tools to Engage and Sustain Behavior Changes”

Obesity is a significant healthcare problem for adults and children.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) and approximately 17% of children and adolescents (aged 2-19 years) are obese.   Another one-third of U.S. adults are overweight or at risk of becoming obese.  This means that medical professionals need to meaningfully communicate information about body weight to two out of every three patients.  The MacDonald Center for Obesity Prevention and Education (COPE) at Villanova University’s College of Nursing is hosting an upcoming conference, Saturday, March 16, designed to assist health care providers with improving communication and weight loss strategies methods with overweight adults and children.

From eating patterns to daily activity, family approaches impact the weight of children.  Early interventions to involve the family in restructuring the home environment can help children return to healthier weight, but addressing the “tough talk” is not easy. 

Health care providers from all disciplines are invited to attend COPE’s upcoming conference. The “Weight Management: Tools to Engage and Sustain Behavior Changes” Conference will take place in Driscoll Hall, home to Villanova’s College of Nursing, on March 16 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The program features evidence-based research and practical ideas that health care providers can use to overcome the challenges of dealing with overweight children and adults.  The prevalence and treatment options for sleep apnea, a serious weight-related health problem, will also be explored.  The conference will close with evidence-based strategies to guide patients to adopt lifestyle changes that are best for long-term weight loss success.

“We are very excited to have a pre-conference on helping healthcare professionals to use social media with clients.  The healthcare industry has been slower to adopt technology in this manner,”  said Denice Ferko-Adams, MPH, RD, LDN, director of COPE and a registered dietitian with more than 20 years of clinical, community and worksite experience.   “Successful weight loss takes time and support.  It is very important for health care providers to work as a team and provide the resources best matched for the patient to reverse the obesity trend. For a teen, that may mean receiving weekly text messages from a dietitian or nurse to monitor progress.” 

Saturday’s conference will begin with “Tough Talks: Communicate Effectively with Patients and Families,” presented by keynote speaker Susan Cluett, CRNP, program director of Children’s Fitness Clinic, University of Virginia Children’s Hospital.  Passionate about child and family obesity, Cluett shares her unique insight and experience in the challenges of communicating with overweight and obese adults and children.  She will set the stage on how clinicians can communicate more effectively with patients and treatment team members.

An interprofessional team from the University of Virginia’s Children’s Hospital will share best of practice examples on how to work with families on weight management. 

Additional presenters and session topics include:

 ·         “Sharpen your social media skills today!,” (Preconference Workshop), by James Spellos, MOS, CNP, President of Meeting U and faculty member at New York University’s Schools of Professional and Continuing Studies

·         “Pediatric Weight Management:  A Blueprint for Success ,” by Amy D. Boitnott, DNP, RN, FNP-BC, CRNP-PC, Assistant Professor and Director, Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Program, University  of Virginia, School of Nursing, Nurse Practitioner and Angie Hasemann, RD, CSP Outpatient Pediatric Dietitian, Children’s Fitness Clinic, Univ. of Virginia Children’s Hospital

·         “Wake-Up Your Patients: Sleep Apnea Identification and Health/Safety Impact,” by Benjamin Gerson, MD , Medical Director, University Services, Philadelphia, PA

·         “All Aboard:  Chart Your Patient’s Course for Long Term Weight Management,” Denice Ferko-Adams, MPH, RD, LDN, Director, MacDonald Center for Obesity Prevention and Education, Villanova University College of Nursing

“Successful weight loss takes time and support,” Ferko-Adams said, noting that “Our conference goal is for medical professionals to acknowledge the importance of working as a team, provide consistent messages to patients for long-term success, increase awareness of serious related conditions like sleep apnea, and share solutions to achieve long-term weight loss success for patients.”

The “Weight Management: Tools to Engage and Sustain Behavior Changes” conference and preconference will be held at the Villanova’s College of Nursing, Driscoll Hall, Villanova, Pa. The one-day conference rate is $175 and the preconference workshop is $99. Advance registrations are required to secure these rates. Visit to register.

The preconference workshop, Sharpen Your Social Media Skills Today, scheduled for Friday, March 30, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., will provide training for health professionals on how to use technology – that is likely already at their fingertips – to communicate with current and potential new clients.  Led by a James Spellos, a nationally recognized speaker, this hands-on workshop will identify the critical social sites.  Attendees are urged to bring their smartphones, tablets and laptops to this session.