Jan 9, 2023 - Health

New guidance for treating youth obesity encourages early intervention

Cafe staff at John Liechty Middle School in Los Angeles prepare lunch on Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Cafe staff at John Liechty Middle School in Los Angeles prepare lunch on Dec. 7. Photo: Christina House / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The American Academy of Pediatrics on Monday released new guidelines for addressing childhood obesity, emphasizing a comprehensive and proactive approach to treatment.

Driving the news: "There is no evidence that ‘watchful waiting’ or delayed treatment is appropriate for children with obesity," Dr. Sandra Hassink, an author of the guideline and vice chair of the Clinical Practice Guideline Subcommittee on Obesity, said in a news release.

  • It's the first update in 15 years by the AAP and the first time that the guidance recommends the age at which youth could be offered medical treatments, including drugs, surgery and lifestyle interventions, AP reports.

Zoom out: The recommendations include nutritional support, motivational interviewing, intensive health behavior and lifestyle treatment, among other things, per the AAP.

  • The guidance also highlights the role that "structural racism has played in obesity prevalence" and the "inequities that promote obesity in childhood, such as the marketing of unhealthy food, low socioeconomic status and household food insecurity," per the news release.
  • "Obesity is not a lifestyle problem. It is not a lifestyle disease," said Aaron Kelly, co-director of the Center for Pediatric Obesity Medicine at the University of Minnesota, per AP.
  • “It predominately emerges from biological factors.”

What they're saying: "Research tells us that we need to take a close look at families — where they live, their access to nutritious food, health care and opportunities for physical activity — as well as other factors that are associated with health, quality-of- life outcomes and risk," said Dr. Sarah Hampl, chair of the Clinical Practice Guideline Subcommittee on Obesity.

  • "Our kids need the medical support, understanding and resources we can provide within a treatment plan that involves the whole family."

The big picture: Obesity affects more than 14.4 million young people in the U.S., per AAP.

Go deeper... The pandemic could be worsening childhood obesity

Go deeper