Pediatrician talks about new childhood obesity guidelines, ways to make simple changes

Pediatrician talks about new childhood obesity guidelines, ways to make simple changes
Published: Jan. 11, 2023 at 5:13 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Obesity has been a problem for years, but it is becoming more of an issue in children.

The American Academy of Pediatrics released new guidelines to combat obesity and it comes down to the treatment options for kids at a younger age than previously used by some doctors.

Some changes include using medication for those 12 years of age and older, Intense Health Behavior and Lifestyle Treatment, and in more severe cases, considering surgery for those 13 years old and up.

“We’ve traditionally relied heavily on behavior intervention, and maybe therapy and nutrition and counseling, that side of things to try to address obesity in children and in families. And this set of guidelines is a little bit more aggressive and saying we really should think about using medicines that might help or at least consider it and discuss that with the family a little bit younger and a little bit more aggressively than we have in the past,” Dr. Soren Johnson, a pediatrician at Novant Health, said. “It used to be kind of 16 years old that we would consider bariatric surgery as an option and now they’re saying 13-year-old years old and up, there’s really not much to be gained by waiting those extra years.”

Dr. Johnson recommends starting with some small changes:

  • Walk or bike somewhere instead of driving to increase your activity level.
    • “Kids are mostly pretty active, especially at a young age. But if you put a tablet in their hand, or put them in front of the TV, they’re not as active, they get engaged with that game or that show, and it cuts back on how many calories you’re burning. So, really trying to make a family goal of like, ‘Hey, here’s what we want to achieve.’ That’s an improvement. And making something you feel like is achievable.” Dr. Johnson said.
  • Portion control, make sure you get the right nutrients with every meal but don’t overeat.
  • Changing habits as a family will help motivate your child instead of excluding them.
    • “That’s something the whole family has to get on board with, with you know, it’s not going to be fair, if you’re buying and drinking a whole lot of juice and everyone’s eating Oreos at home, but you’re telling that one kid, ‘Hey, you can’t have the same stuff.’ That’s not fair. Right? I say that that problem is kind of won or lost at the grocery store of what you’re bringing in the home. Trying to avoid those simple sugar beverages, juices, sodas, that type of thing and cut that back. That’s probably one of those easier things to measure. I’m not saying it’s easy to do, to change that habit, but it’s something you can really concretely watch, and try and change and make a big difference,” Dr. Johnson said.

“If what you’re doing isn’t working, you might as well go ahead and be more aggressive,” Dr. Johnson said. “[It’s] not a one size fits all approach or thing for everybody.”

Dr. Johnson said that the majority of those suffering from obesity typically come from lower-income households, and they don’t have easy access to fresh, healthier options for food.

“It touches things that kind of deal with the fabric of our society and that’s why it’s such a difficult challenge because we know that obesity rates are worse, if the, you know, traditionally in looking at the community level of population health. If families have lower income and lower socioeconomic status, we know obesity rates are higher in minority populations,” Dr. Johnson said.

He also added a few things out of a child’s control that might contribute to the obesity problem.

“Taking a step back and not just at the clinic level, it’s a real challenge and something that I think all adults need to consider and think about that when they think about things like, Hey, do we need more parks in our community? Should we approve or disapprove of that bond on the ballot for more parks? Or do we need to think about how are we? How are we as a society facing the challenges with access to fast food and sugary foods and stuff like that? Should we be more aggressive? Those are kind of policy level and community health level, things that maybe we should do differently to get a different result with obesity,” Dr. Johnson said.

To read the full release, click here.