AAP Updates Guidelines to Treat Childhood Obesity with a “Whole Child” Approach
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently released the first edition of updated guidelines for the evaluation and treatment of children and adolescents with obesity. The new guidelines come as a shock to many parents, as they recommend medications and bariatric surgery for teens as young as 12.
The AAP suggests that lifestyle interventions, such as nutrition support, physical activity treatment and behavioral therapy, should be a core component of childhood obesity treatment. Additionally, they recommend offering referrals for metabolic and bariatric surgery evaluation to adolescents 13 years and older with a BMI at or above 120% of the 95th percentile.
The AAP guidelines recognize the complexity of childhood obesity, and suggest that healthcare professionals consider the child’s family system, health status, community status, and resources to develop a child-centered, evidence-based treatment plan.However, they do not offer guidance on obesity prevention, which will be addressed in a future policy statement.
Weight stigma and bias are driven by culture-wide negative stereotypes and beliefs about people in larger bodies, and the AAP acknowledges that the responsibility for ending weight stigma and bias falls on the culture, rather than the individuals experiencing it.
Dr. Kim, a doctor with the Cleveland Clinic, noted that there is a greater focus on the social support component of treating childhood obesity in the new AAP guidelines. This is important, as the environments children grow up in can have a major effect on their health.
Currently, more than 14.4 million children and teens in the United States are living with the chronic disease. Diet is an important factor, as processed, unhealthy foods are more accessible to families than healthy foods.
In conclusion, the new AAP guidelines emphasize a “whole child” approach that considers various factors that can influence a child’s living condition, such as proximity to recreation areas or green spaces, or food insecurity. They recommend lifestyle interventions, medications and bariatric surgery for older teens, and urge healthcare professionals to develop a child-centered, evidence-based treatment plan. The AAP also acknowledges the need to address weight stigma and bias, and the importance of the social support component in treating childhood obesity.
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