When Parents Lead, Children Succeed

B2W Radio - The Stakeholder Doctor

B2W Radio - The Stakeholder Doctor

Elane V. Scott
Rick Stephens
Featured Guest:
Dr. Alberto Gedissman

Dear Stakeholder Leaders,

Our guest on this program is Dr. Alberto Gedissman, a pediatric specialist in Orange County, California, for over 30 years. Dr. Gedissman and I first met when I attended a public presentation he was sponsoring at the hospital where he was Director of Pediatric Services. The topic of the public presentation was Violence and the Media, which I was attracted to because of my studies in media literacy and because it was so unexpected, in my experience, as a mother of two children, to have a presentation of this type sponsored by someone in the medical community. Since that first meeting with Dr. Gedissman, I have learned to always expect the unexpected from him.

A man of passion, who truly loves serving children and their families, he eventually felt some despair with the growing numbers of ailments he saw in his day to day practice related to childhood obesity. Over time, as a healthcare stakeholder in his community, he knew he had to take professional action. He had to take a risk and move away from the the comfort and familiarity of his long time medical practice and move in a new direction. His first step was to take his own practice in a new direction, preventative care. He designed an approach to health care for children that was centered on teaching parents about a step by step process to help their children have better health early, and stave off the catastrophic results for the children, families, and the community as a whole, if they don’t.

His program is called Wellness Center (formerly PowerPlay MD-OC), self-described as “A pediatrician directed health, nutrition and fitness program to manage weight and to promote healthy, lean and active youth.” The most formidable part of making the program available to the community was establishing the health center, where this new program is implemented. Finding funding was tough. With a focus on prevention, his new model for pediatric care forced Dr. Gedissman to put on his healthcare stakeholder leader hat and bring financial and insurance services into alignment with his ideas by convincing their representatives that investing in prevention early would save their companies money down the line. But he didn’t stop with aligning medical stakeholders. To truly combat the epidemic of obesity, he had to invite community stakeholders leaders from throughout the neighborhoods he wanted to serve, including school leaders, city government leaders, and business leaders. He knows it will take all of them to set a new standard and a new, consistent example for healthy living in the community.

Dr. Gedissman understands he has a much larger role than a giver of medical care in the lives of patients and their families, and it was this keen understanding of his unique role, not taught in medical school, but learned out of experience, that helped him grow into the parent educator and community stakeholder of today. Parents generally rely on pediatricians for education and guidance related to physical and mental care for many years beyond the first two or three. In addition , parents look to them for advice on general topics like media diets and answers to questions like how much time to spend with technology, all issues directly related to childhood obesity. But changing children’s behavior meant changing the parents’ behaviors, which meant influencing the values of the community to prioritize healthy living.

Another area of related concern to children and their healthy, early development is physical movement and its impact on long term brain development. You’ll get to hear some of Dr. Gedissman’s views on this topic of interest to me, for over 30 years, and the Birth2Work organization, as we work with Dr. Gedissman to better understand why, with all the billions of dollars being spent to help our children do better in education, they seem to be getting worse. Is there a relationship with other health factors that have contributed to poor or delayed development that have not been looked at carefully enough? We think so and we continue to push the envelope on research and understanding. You'll be hearing much more about this work in the near future.

Neither the obesity issue nor brain development issue is possible for the education system or healthcare system to deal with alone. They are issues for the whole community to tackle together. Parents are also the primary models for early childhood emotional behavior. When parents are aware how their own personal actions impact early behavior that can last for a lifetime, they are glad to learn how being a model for their child positively shapes the child’s behavior and builds the foundation for life long success. With emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills becoming essential ingredients sought by employers, this attention and focus on early emotional and behavioral development will have a direct effect on children’s ability to compete in the future workforce, without them even knowing it.

Like Dr. Gedissman, who actively advocates for companies to invest their philanthropy dollars in early education (ages 0-6), Birth2Work is bringing together community sectors to inspire self-initiated change. Our workforce, indeed the entire promise of our country’s future prosperity and growth, is rooted in the lessons each new baby learns starting at day 1. As communities we are responsible for prioritizing healthy living through how we behave everyday, how we use our dollars to support products and services that represent our values, and how we encourage and validate one another at the most fundamental level to work with us in creating a better tomorrow.

Elane V. Scott

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