Q: What does a well child look like?
A: A well child is one who is in hormonal balance. The body of a growing child is like a symphony orchestra, and all the hormones of the body are like instruments of the orchestra; insulin is the master conductor. When the insulin is stable, the master conductor is right on and all the other instruments play just the way they should, and beautiful music called health and wellness result. Too often with children, their day is spent with unstable insulin levels so their master conductor is off. Their body is out of balance and what results is what I call all the Ds—ADD (attention-deficit disorder), ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and diabetes—we have an epidemic of Ds.
Q: What is nutritional deficit disorder?
A: I coined that term when one day a mom came into the office with a child who had been labeled ADD by his teacher, and I asked what Johnny had for breakfast. She said, “Well, Pop Tarts and Fruit Loops.” And I asked what he had for lunch and she said, “Oh just the regular school lunch.” And then I asked what he had for a snack and she said, “Well, he didn’t have any.” And I thought, “Johnny doesn’t have ADD; he has NDD,” and that term stuck.
Q: Where do you see health care for American children in 30 years?
A: I see it improving because parents are finally going to make the connection between heath and nutrition: “I feed my child right; my child has good heath. I feed my child wrong; he has bad health.” We as pediatricians are going to bring up a whole new generation of consumers. Buyers today are not going to be the same as tomorrow; they are going to be a lot more savvy. For the first time in history, pediatricians are going to influence how consumers shop. The American Academy of Pediatrics is now recommending a nutritional history as part of a child’s checkup. What this means is that doctors are finally going to be spearheading this nutritional change.
Q: What is the L.E.A.N. Start program?
A: This pilot program, which I developed from a government grant, began in California. It’s a parent-to-parent training organization that teaches the four pillars of health: lifestyle, exercise, attitude and nutrition. It’s more than nutrition; it’s mental and physical health. We are now training LEAN coaches nationally. They will go into a school, home or an organization and teach other parents, usually mothers, to also be LEAN coaches. The program’s about two-and-a-half years old now and it’s really taken off. As a result, parents are teaching school administrations that kids need “brain-food breakfasts,” which ingredients to avoid and so on.
–Interview by Anna Soref