Rahul Shah, MD, MS, FAAP, Pediatrician at Aspen Valley Primary Care, discusses critical health issues affecting children and gives tips on how parents can foster positive behaviors.
Why did you choose to specialize in the field of pediatrics?
I knew I wanted to be a pediatrician when I was on my medical school rotation in the pediatric emergency department. There was so much gratification from seeing kids improve right in front of my eyes, and I think many healthcare workers will agree that children make the best patients! When I was young, I was certain I would be a schoolteacher when I grew up. Luckily, as a pediatrician, I get to teach and interact with families every day.
What is the single-most important step that parents can take to ensure the health of their children?
Children absorb so much from the world, and parents are their most influential role models. The words and actions of parents reflect directly in their children. While you can’t be there for every choice and decision your child makes, teaching them good habits and explaining the “why” behind everything will help ensure your child thrives.
“In my practice, I notice that families in which the adults make efforts to eat healthy and stay active are the ones who are most successful in fostering healthy habits in their children.”
– Dr. Rahul Shah
What is the number one health risk facing children today?
COVID-19 has been devastating for children and families alike. While it is reassuring that children are quite resilient in the face of COVID, a lesser-known statistic is how many children in the United States (1 in 500) have lost a parent or guardian to this ugly virus. Sadly, the effects of this go beyond the illness itself, as children must face the mental and social consequences that come with the loss of loved ones.
Should parents have concerns about having eligible children vaccinated against the coronavirus?
The vaccine is perhaps the most effective tool we have against the virus. Fortunately, it has been shown to be impressively safe after over 25 million doses administered in the U.S. pediatric population. It is disheartening to see pediatric vaccination rates lag behind other age groups. The risk of COVID has only grown since the beginning of the pandemic, while our tactics for battling it have stayed largely the same. I encourage parents to discuss any vaccine concerns with their pediatrician.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), childhood obesity is a serious problem. How can parents help children maintain a healthy weight?
The most practical advice I can offer is to have family mealtime together at home and to include children of all ages in cooking to help them develop a positive relationship with food. In my practice, I notice that families in which the adults make efforts to eat healthy and stay active are the ones who are most successful in fostering healthy habits in their children.
How can AVH and its broader Network of Care support children and parents?
Aspen Valley Primary Care is poised to take care of your whole family — thanks to our team of family medicine physicians, pediatricians, physician assistants and pharmacists. Our clinic accounts for individual patient needs rather than taking a cookie-cutter approach to healthcare. AVH also has ear/nose/throat specialists, eye specialists, behavioral health specialists, rehabilitation services, after-hours care and nutritionist services all practically under one roof. These teams are all equipped for and, more importantly, enthusiastic about pediatric care.