More than 4,000 pediatric nurse practitioners are gathered here at the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP) 2013 conference in Orlando for three days of educational sessions, continuing education credits and networking opportunities.

NAPNAP president Susan Van Cleve, DNP, RN, CPNP-PC, greeted attendees and touched on several of this week’s highlights, including the NAPNAP business meeting on Thursday, which will offer attendees the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the candidates running for office in the NAPNAP election. Other topics to be discussed include pediatric APN-spearheaded legislation, and opportunities to become more involved at the advocacy level.

Founder Janet McCleary took the stage next to share NAPNAP’s history from its origins 40 years ago, reminiscing that the registration fee for the first conference in 1973 was “only $25.” Since then, the organization has grown from 400 members to more than 7,500 – a feat McClearly called “truly amazing,” and “above and beyond all expectations.”

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After McCleary’s address, keynote speaker Todd Whitthorne, president and CEO of Cooper Concepts, Inc., an early pioneer in the field of preventative medicine, looked ahead to the challenges NPs will face in the future. He touched on topics including pediatric obesity and the growing number of young patients with type 2 diabetes.

“The United States has two epidemics: the obesity epidemic and the physical inactivity epidemic. We don’t move because we don’t have to,” Whitthorne said. “Primary care health care providers need to model, lead and change this perception.”

During his presentation, Whitthorne shared the following statistics:

  • Nearly 18.4% of 4-year-olds in America are now obese
  • American children consume an average of 100 lbs. of sugar per year, or about 2 lbs. per week
  • Children aged 8 to 18 years spend 7 hours and 38 minutes per day on sedentary media, including music, television, movies and only video games
  • More than 26 million Americans have type 2 diabetes, and an estimated 1-in-3  will develop the disease by 2050
  • Children diagnosed with type 2 diabetes lose an average of 14 to 17 years off their lifespan

“Teach your patients that food is fuel. We need to realize what we eat has a huge impact on how we think, feel and live,” he said.

To help combat the growing problems of obesity and diabetes, Whitthorne urged all pediatric NPs in attendance to use every tool available to get children more physically active.

Current physical activity guidelines specify 30 minutes of exercise, five days per week, or vigorous cardio for 20 minutes, three days per week. Whitthorne also emphasized the importance of variety in exercise, promoting use of the FIT (frequency, intensity, time) program.