The American Academy of Pediatrics revised its guidelines related to treating childhood obesity, and more consistent dialogue between doctors and parents, as well as more aggressive lifestyle adjustments, are among the revisions.
One of the most stigmatizing topics in our world today is conversations that involve a person’s weight and the implications of being either overweight or obese. This conversation is even more difficult when it is regarding our children and the long-lasting health impacts that are associated with a person who remains in the obese range for their lifetime. That is why the American Academy of Pediatrics has released new guidelines for all healthcare providers and parents to proactively address childhood obesity more aggressively than had been done in the past.
Back in 2007, the last time the Academy updated its guidelines on overweight and obesity issues in children and adolescents, the guidance was to use a watchful waiting approach to addressing these issues. However, after collecting and analyzing the data over the last 15 years, the American Academy of Pediatrics have found no benefit in taking that approach, so they are now recommending a more aggressive approach that will increase the dialogue between health providers and parents. According to ABC7 news, “The new guidelines recommend they be used for all children over the age of 2 with overweight and obesity.”
The guidelines recommend that children over 6 years old can receive monthly behavioral therapy sessions to assist with making long-lasting healthy changes to their food and activity choices. Depending on the individual’s situation, teens might be eligible for weight loss medications along with continued diet and exercise regimens. For teens that are suffering from severe obesity, weight loss surgery could be a safe and effective option for them.
This is a major change in direction from the previous “watchful waiting” approach, but as the data showed, that approach was extremely ineffective in curing childhood obesity. The AAP is asking that physicians work with parents on how to make additional health and lifestyle changes that the parents can model for their children that encourage them along with their daily physical activity. The first major hurdle both health providers and parents will face is removing the stigmatism that has always surrounded conversations about a person’s weight.
Even though childhood obesity is a common occurrence, many of our children and teens face a weight-based stigma that also takes a toll on a person’s mental health, especially since many of the factors that contribute to obesity such as genetics and structural racism are out of that person’s control. Yet, they are the ones who are publicly humiliated by the fact that they find themselves in that obese category.
Most of us are even unfamiliar with how obesity is determined in this country, and the correct answer is by using a person’s body mass index (BMI). The way BMI is determined is by taking a person’s height and weight to compare to others that are the same age and gender. You are considered overweight when your BMI is 85 percent or greater than that comparison group, and you are considered obese when your BMI is at or above 95 percent in comparison to that group.
What’s at stake is our kid’s long-term health, as there is more than enough data that clearly shows that childhood obesity is directly related to a higher percentage of cases of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obstructive sleep apnea, and clinical depression. Now our children will be screened for childhood obesity at each routine checkup, instead of your doctor waiting to see if it starts to get out of control. They will be opening that dialogue with the parents right then and there to come up with a plan to help them change course and get that child or teen proactively on a road to a brighter and healthier future.