More than 14 million children and teenagers in the U.S. are living with obesity.
It’s a chronic disease associated with a lifetime of health risks. That’s why for the first time ever the American Academy of Pediatrics has released groundbreaking guidelines on treating children battling obesity.
Sixteen-year-old Harley Boaz’s life was put at risk at 16 because of her 285-pound weight.
“When you are obese, people stare at you, people judge you,” Boaz said. “I was diagnosed with hypertension. I was pre-diabetic. I had high cholesterol.”
A Center for Disease Control and Prevention study warns that type 2 diabetes will surge 700% in people under the age of 20 in the next 40 years.
“About 20% of the pediatric population now has obesity,” said Dr. Jennifer Sprague, a pediatric endocrinologist at Washington University in St. Louis. “It says we should offer all of our treatments as soon as a patient is eligible for them.”
Sprague said doctors, for the first time, have a road map for how to treat children.
“It highlights that a watch-and-wait strategy is not effective,” she said.
The AAP guidelines include evidence-based recommendations such as motivational interviewing to behavior treatments and pharmaceuticals like the newly FDA-approved Wegovy, the first one-weekly weight loss injection approved for children 12 years and older. The new guidelines also urge pediatricians to take into account genetics, physiology, socioeconomic factors, and the environment, stressing obesity is not just about weight, but instead, it’s a complex issue that requires a comprehensive and personalized treatment, plan.
“They can make a really huge difference in patients’ lives,” Sprague said.
Studies show 95% of teens with type 2 diabetes who had bariatric surgery no longer had it three years following surgery while 74% normalized their blood pressure.
“I think there’s always hope that if you treat this disease, you’re gonna lessen the long-term consequences,” Sprague said.
To help alleviate concerns about what your child may be consuming, Lee and Collier County School Districts offer programs for parents to view.
The district of Lee County has a meal view website where parents can locate the school their children attend and examine what is available on the school lunch menu that day.
Collier County offers the Blue Zones Project. A community-wide partnership to promote healthier choices easier for the people in Southwest Florida.
Lee County has the Farm to School program, which creates the opportunities for students to gain access to healthy, local foods as well as education opportunities such as school gardens.