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US childhood obesity guidelines may rush the use of drugs or surgery

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends intensive interventions to manage weight loss, including drugs and surgery – but it’s unclear whether they will reduce childhood obesity


27 January 2023


Counselling on physical activity and nutrition is one of the most effective ways to treat childhood obesity


In its first comprehensive guide to treating childhood obesity in more than 15 years, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends doctors offer adolescents more intensive interventions sooner, including weight loss medications and even surgery. But it is unclear whether the recommendations will adequately address paediatric obesity.

Childhood obesity rates in the US have nearly quadrupled since the 1960s and current estimates suggest more than 14 million children in the US have obesity. …

Source link In the United States, childhood obesity is a serious health issue attributed to a myriad of lack of physical activity and unbalanced diets. In 2019, the U.S. Department of Health published an updated set of guidelines on the topic that some health professionals believe may potentially rush the utilization of drugs and surgery for kids classified as obese.

The revised guidelines, advised by the US Preventive Services Task Force, call for universal screening of children’s weight starting at age 6 and for referring them for weight management counseling or intensive treatment if their body mass index (BMI) surpasses the 95th percentile. The guidelines also recommend referral to intensive lifestyle treatment including dietary guidance, physical activity, and behavior therapy for kids aged 12 and above who have a BMI in the 85th to 94th percentile range.

However, some public health doctors suggest this initiative may be too ambitious, with prominent clinicians and researchers now arguing that it could lead to “overmedicalizing” childhood obesity and favor the utilization of drugs and/or surgery as a first response to address the issue. According to most of these professionals, medications and surgery may not be necessary, and health practitioners should rather encourage a more diverse set of interventions such as family counseling and specialized diet programs.

Furthermore, some experts are now highlighting the potential health risks related to such an aggressive approach such as increased psychological distress, suppressing children’s growth, exacerbation of eating disorders, and increased health complications for vulnerable children.

The new US Preventive Services Task Force guidelines emphasize that standards for children’s health should not be different from those for adults and advocates for persistency in tackling youth obesity, whether it’s through drugs, surgery, or lifestyle interventions. While this mindset leads to guidelines perceived by some as too drastic, this possible overmedicalization of obesity should not be used as an excuse to do nothing and let obesity numbers keep climbing.

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