Date of Conferral





Public Health


Scott McDoniel


Epidemiologic surveillance indicates an increased susceptibility to obesity among children with special health care needs (SHCN) in comparison to children without. The present study investigated this disparity in weight severity between both groups, with a focus on the provision of obesity management counseling by physicians. This study consisted of a retrospective medical record review that acknowledged the effect of patient-provider interactions on health behaviors and risk perceptions. An independent sample t test compared the incidence of clinician-initiated obesity management counseling received by children with SHCN to that which was received by children without SHCN. This t test revealed a statistically significant difference between the weight management frequency received by youth with SHCN (M = 1.0, SD =.46498) and the weight management frequency received by youth without SHCN (M = 2.0, SD = .74975), t(100) = 7.826, p = .000, α =.05 over a 2-year timeframe. Bivariate correlation analysis validated a correlation between weight severity among children with SHCN and the incidence of clinician-initiated obesity management counseling. The results indicated a small but significant association between weight severity and weight management frequency among children with SHCN, r(50) = .287, p = .044, α =.05. These results support the need for a transformation in the delivery of preventive health services for children with SHCN, such as providing clinician-based obesity management strategies and increasing access to validated diagnosis-specific preventive health screening tools. These results promote positive social change by informing efforts to improve health outcomes and decrease health disparities experienced by people with SHCN.