Dr. Rita Lepe, and co-author Gabriel Trosman, recently published “Junior Has Fatty Liver?”, a book for families and children. She recently shared information about the book and how parents and children can learn from it.
- What is this book about, and who is the intended audience? This book is for school age children, primarily elementary school. It is about a kid named Henry who in a previous book (My Daddy has Sirr-osis?) learns about the liver and what can happen when it fails. In this book Henry tells the story of his friend Junior who is diagnosed with fatty liver and diabetes. Together with his other friends, Henry helps Junior incorporate better eating habits to improve his health.
- Why did you decide to write this book? This book is the second in a series intended to teach young children about liver disease. In this book children learn about healthy eating habits. As an adult hepatologist, I am very aware of the problem of fatty liver disease in children, especially among Latinos. We know that an obese child is likely to become an obese adult. As a result, we are seeing fatty liver progress through the years. I am deeply concerned about the wave of patients — young adults with cirrhosis and liver failure–I will have to care for. More and more I am seeing patients die or need a liver transplant at a young age. So, I am convinced that prevention is the most important thing we can do. If we can slow the progression or prevent obesity and fatty liver from happening, it will save lives. I noticed the lack of material to educate young children, so I made my own materials.
- How can parents know if their child might have a problem with fatty liver? Parents should take their children to the pediatrician regularly, especially if children are obese. Their doctor will let parents know if they are concerned and might request labs and an ultrasound of the liver.
- How can we raise awareness without alarming people? Well, I think the book is not alarming, it is just beginning to introduce certain new concepts to children such facts about the liver, diabetes, the importance of healthy eating and the reversibility of fatty liver through healthy lifestyles. For parents, I think we should raise an alarm. If we do not stress the importance of this, parents will not be aware of how serious the problem is. Fatty liver is a silent disease and often parents do not give it the serious attention it deserves.
- What are the 3 biggest take-aways from the book? The book is aimed to give children an understanding of: 1. the importance of good nutrition and exercise, 2. liver basics, 3. the problem of fatty liver and childhood diabetes.
- What can parents do to prevent fatty liver problems in their children? Parents want the best for their children, so we first need to educate parents that the problem exists, and its consequences. Once you pose the problem parents will then be motivated to play a more active role in managing their child’s diet and learn to pick better foods. At the end of the day, parents are the ones that have control over what their children eat, they go to the grocery stores, take their children to fast food places or not, etc.
Dr. Rita Lepe is an adult hepatologist in Texas. She has tremendous experience in all forms of liver disease including NAFLD (Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease) and is interested in preventing liver disease among children and high-risk populations especially the Latino community. Dr. Lepe is also a highly regarded teacher and educator. Gabriel Trosman is her youngest son who wants to be a doctor when he grows up and is interested in influencing others to develop healthy habits.